By Owen Maddox
The seed was planted when a young boy of ten years old was given a copy of Outdoor Life Magazine by his uncle. During these early years, the uncle introduced him to hunting a variety of animals in Kentucky. Among the uncle’s favorites were Bobwhite Quail and the Eastern Grey and Eastern Fox Squirrel. Using an old, single-shot 12-gauge shotgun, given to him by his grandmother, the boy’s favorite hunting at the time was for Bobwhite Quail, that were pursued with the highly energetic and extremely tense two English Pointer birddogs that belonged to his uncle. Nearly 12 years of age brought a new hunting experience for the boy – hunting the Whitetail Deer of Kentucky. His uncle let him “borrow” a used Marlin .336 Lever Action Rifle, which he used for several years in the pursuit of the Whitetail Deer. This quickly became his second hunting passion along with the Bobwhite Quail. His uncle never asked for the Marlin to be returned and continued to supply the young boy with his used copies of the magazines until he got his first job, cutting a two-acre yard of the motel just down the street from his home. At the age of twelve, with two additional jobs, delivering the Louisville Courier Journal newspaper and obtaining a TV Guide route, he then bought every monthly copy of Outdoor Life Magazine and Field & Stream Magazine.
All the articles were read at least once, but the articles by one author, Jack O’Conner, completely fascinated the boy. Jack O’Conner wrote about a variety of hunting subjects, but the most interesting ones discussed which calibers were best for the different species of game, including many African animals. The African Cape Buffalo stood out among them all. The boy then began purchasing and requesting African game hunting books from his family for a Christmas or birthday present. He was then hooked on the thought of hunting Cape Buffalo in Africa with a “Double Rifle” and informed his grandmother, whom he had lived with since age six, that he would someday take a “African Cape Buffalo” with a “Double Rifle”. That boy was me, Owen E Maddox, Jr.
The next 61 years were filled with school, Air Force aviation for 20 years, another 20 years with United Airlines and then retirement.
The next 61 years were filled with school, Air Force aviation for 20 years, another 20 years with United Airlines and then retirement.
In 2017 I once again started to think about the number one goal the 12-year-old boy had told his grandmother he was going to achieve one day. I met six Safari Outfitters at a show in Denver that year and quickly decided on one Professional Hunter, Dave Freeburn, who runs Dave Freeburn Safaris in South Africa. I communicated with him several times about scheduling a Buffalo hunt in 2018 but that plan was derailed due to a cancer scare. It was finally determined that I did not have cancer, but the African planning was down the drain at that time.
My spouse and biggest supporter in my life, Amy Brandon Maddox. I finally brought the subject up again in the summer of 2020. We gave the issue an abundance of dialog and we finally agreed that if I was ever going to fulfill that bucket list item, I needed to get busy scheduling the trip. I once again checked out the references for Dave Freeburn Safaris — all with outstanding comments. I contacted Dave and he did remember me from 2017 and we scheduled a safari hunt in August 2021.
In 2019 I, as a Federal Firearms License (FFL) holder, sold an estate of a local firearms collector who passed away. His wife did not want any of the firearms in her home after her husband’s passing, and 96 of the 104 firearms were sold; eight of the more expensive guns did not sell and I tried to return them to their owner. She would not accept them into her home and offered them to me at a rock-bottom low price which I accepted. The most prized firearm in the remaining collection was a Krieghoff Classic Five Double Rifle in the .500/416 N.E. caliber.
Before my hunt was scheduled, I knew the double rifle was going with me to fulfill my long-awaited dream. The PH advised me to practice often, both shooting off sticks and offhand at 50 yards. I averaged ten rounds of reloads per week for four months and got very good at reloading the double quickly even though it did not have ejectors on the rifle. One of my best friends, Jim Madere, encouraged me through the entire process of preparing for the hunt but especially in practicing with the double. I know he also really enjoyed shooting that rifle.
A month prior to my departure to South Africa, rioting, looting, kidnapping, and shootings broke out in Africa and the U.S. State Department recommended against travel to that destination. I had already received about ten vaccinations and was determined not to cancel my “dream trip”. Amy agreed with the decision to continue.
I had previously decided on going to Johannesburg two days early, to avoid jetlag on my first day of hunting. I booked two nights at the Afton Safari Lodge, located only 15 minutes from O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg. The Afton Safari Lodge is owned by the publisher of the African Hunting Gazette and managed by Elize, who does a wonderful job in making all safari hunters feel at home.
My first African safari ended in total success as I took my first African Cape Buffalo with my double rifle and several other plains game animals. My 61-year dream had finally been fulfilled. But this story is about my third Cape buffalo hunt in Zimbabwe, so, let’s get on with that.
Departure day has finally arrived for my third trip to the Dark Continent. Preparation has been limited this past year due to an accident in October 2022. While building a lean-to on my barn, a 16 foot 2”x6” rafter fell, and I caught it behind my back on a ladder. That resulted in four muscle tears around my left rotator cuff. Surgery on the four tears was accomplished in December 2022 resulting in physical therapy for the next four months. The surgery had to be repeated in April 2023 due to an additional tear of the bicep. I knew immediately that would place my August 2023 safari in jeopardy. I called my professional hunter, Dave Freeburn of Dave Freeburn Safaris, to give him the bad news. He said there was an opening in October for the Zimbabwe hunt – and the date was set. I had hunted in South Africa for the past two years with Dave and he thought the change in location would be to my liking.
Physical therapy for the following five months led to about 70% recovery, but I was still limited in my use of the left arm. I was concerned that I miight not be able to carry or shoot my Krieghoff 500/416 N.E. double rifle. Two weeks prior to my departure date, Dr. Mitch Seemann, my orthopedic surgeon, cleared me to make the trip but not to carry the rifle with my left hand. I practiced shooting about 75 rounds at my club range, Buffalo Creek Gun Club, in Colorado. I did not have the mobility nor the quickness I needed to be going up against one of the Big Five dangerous game animals of Africa, the African Cape Buffalo. I felt very comfortable shooting off my sticks for the first shot but still had concerns for the follow-up shot which is normally required. My decision was made – I was leaving for Zimbabwe in two weeks.
My wife of over 31 years, Amy, took me to Denver International Airport (DIA) the morning of October 21st, 2023, to begin my journey. Hank, our one-and-a-half-year-old Weimaraner, accompanied us but was dropped off at his favorite play-time kennel for the day since Amy had to work at the United Airlines Training Center after our trip to DIA. My rifle was checked through by security to Johannesburg with no problems since all my paperwork was completed correctly. I had a great breakfast at the United Club and daydreamed of my adventure to come. My flight from Denver to Newark was on time and uneventful and after a few hours in the Newark United Club I boarded my familiar Boeing 787, Flight number 188, to Johannesburg. Sixteen hours later I was retrieving my bag and rifle in O.R. Tambo Int Airport in Johannesburg. That evening was spent at the City Lodge Hotel at the airport and after the next morning’s delicious breakfast, I checked my bag and rifle for my flight to Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. Dave Freeburn and I met in the boarding area and continued our journey to Zimbabwe on South African Airlines flight number SA40. One and a half hours later I paid $30 for my Zimbabwe Visa and retrieved my baggage and rifle. At the front entrance of the airport, we were met by Stewart “Stu” Taylor, our Zimbabwe PH along with an apprentice PH, Kirsten, who had finished PH School and was now doing her four years of required training, on safari, with a qualified PH. Two and a half hours later we arrived in camp, located in Matetsi, Unit 2. Along the way we picked up our Government Game Scout, Johnathan, from his government compound, one hour from our camp. We also dropped off Kirsten for her short walk to Unit 1, where she was working.
After unpacking and meeting Guav Johnson, a PH and part owner in the Matetsi, Unit 2, lease permit, along with a friend of his and the camp staff, which included our primary tracker, Davey, his son Giff, our secondary tracker; Johnathan, the Game Scout, Moraine, our housekeeper and Internet expert, and our waiter, Nelson, we proceeded to ensure my rifle had remained sighted-in. One shot at 50 meters satisfied Stu, the PH, but I shot a second shot to satisfy my double was good with both barrels for the hunt.
The first evening was spent on a drive showing me the terrain we would be hunting and discussing how we would hunt the African Cape Buffalo in Unit 2. This Unit is part of a huge concession of close to 1,000,000 acres with no fences. Every animal on the concession is totally free and wild. On that short one-hour drive, I saw approximately 250 elephants and many other plains game animals.
However, everything was not all good – a lightning storm we were watching started a huge fire that burned a significant part of the west side of Unit 2. Another fire two weeks prior to our arrival burned thousands of acres right up to our camp. We made a quick return to camp, where Stu directed workers to the fire with equipment, including a tractor, to make fire breaks.
A great dinner that evening was accompanied by many hunting adventures relayed by all three PHs. The adventurous storytelling was interrupted by the soothing sound of a lion’s gentle roar, which continued through the evening. Little did I know at the time, but Guav Johnson is a legendary PH who has guided many famous hunters in several countries on the African Continent. He told to me that Simba’s roar was very common in the evening at that camp. On no other previous hunt had I ever heard that sound throughout the night. As I lay in bed that evening, I realized that sound was reinforcing my determination to continue my African journeys.
The next morning we were up at 4:45am, had breakfast with Guav and his friend, and drove out of camp at 5:30 to hunt for an old Dagga Boy, an old bull that normally has outlived his usefulness in the herd and might live by himself or with a couple of others like himself. They generally have been replaced by a younger, stronger bull in their herd.
I had told Stu that my left shoulder might be a problem, but my preference was for him not to assist with shooting the Dagga Boy, if we could find one. The exception was if I did not make a clean first shot, but hit the buff, then take him down, especially if I was not fast on the follow-up shot. He agreed.
The entire morning was driving the roads looking for big buff tracks. We saw two sets of good tracks on the dusty road, but the two stalks yielded no Dagga Boys. We saw one large herd in the distance, but we decided not to follow it since I was looking for a big old bull that had probably been pushed out of the herd, so went back to camp for lunch. While having lunch, Stu got a call from Guav who had spotted three big Dagga Boys at the southern tip of the unit so Stu decided to cancel our previous plan and go the long distance where the bulls had been seen. I had a good feeling about the change of plans because we were the only hunters in the area and the three bulls would not be under any pressure and therefore would probably remain in the area undisturbed.
We reached the location about an hour after leaving camp and set up on a rise with all of us glassing the area. The area was vast and covered with tall grass, scrubby trees and rolling hills – it provided lots of cover for the bulls and would be hard to locate them unless they either got up from the afternoon rest to go to water, picked up our scent, which was not likely due to keeping the wind in our face, or being bumped by other animals. This was a possible problem due to many elephants in the area. We stalked across the plains for about one-half mile while continuing to glass the area. A slight rise gave a good view from a slightly higher position and we spotted our Dagga Boys.
They were on the move and heading to water – or so we thought. They disappeared in a low gully as we stalked closer, where we had good cover, and the wind was still in our favor. Thirty minutes later we reached a position where we thought we would see them again, but they were nowhere to be seen. We were then worried that our stalk had taken too long, and the “Dagga Boys” had hastened their pace to get to the water which was beyond the southeastern edge of our area.
Our hopes faded the longer we glassed the area for them and finally Stu sent Giff, the youngest tracker, up a tree some distance behind us. Still no sighting of the bulls. After 30 more minutes of glassing, Dave told Stu that he would return directly to the location where we had spotted them from a good, elevated position. He hurriedly returned with a big smile and informed us the bulls were lying down in the tall grass right in front of us at 150 yards. Stu told us to stalk directly into the wind toward the bull’s position, very slowly across the area that had minimal cover for us. We had to stalk low the entire way, only rising to ensure the bulls had not stood up. At 100 yards from their position, the two trackers and Game Scout, remained behind a few bushes and Stu, Dave and I continued the stalk to 50 yards. At that point Stu set up the shooting sticks for me and told me to shoot the bull to the left of a small tree when he stood up. I focused the rifle sight on the tips of horns, which I could see protruding from the golden grass. After 10 minutes, (it seemed like forever), the bulls started to move their heads around and I saw the tail swish of the bull I was focused on — I was ready for him to stand, and finally he did, but he and the other two bulls immediately turned the opposite way than I expected. I held my shot to avoid hitting two bulls and at the same time Stu and Dave said, “Don’t shoot him, the bull on the right is bigger.” I had no time to get on the other bigger bull because they were intermingled. They all three ran to the west, away from some elephants which had spooked them out of their afternoon rest and which, in my concentration on the bull with the horns protruding through the tall golden grass, I had not even been aware of.
Stu picked up the shooting sticks and all three of us ran in a direction to cut off some distance to the bulls. We paused once to check on the bulls which had slowed to a fast walk. They were 180 yards away and Stu asked if I was comfortable making a long shot if necessary. I said, “No, it has to be close to 100 yards or closer with my double.” We kept moving and then we saw elephants coming towards the bulls from the west – the bulls slowed which allowed us to get to 110 yards from the bulls where Stu set up the sticks once again and I got my rifle sight on the big guy, but they were still moving from right to left. From behind me, Dave bellowed twice, the first was not loud enough for the bulls to hear at 110 yards, but the second bellow was loud, and all three bulls stopped to look our way — the biggest Dagga Boy stopped at a perfect side position view, and I was on him with an immediate shot through both lungs. He jumped a couple of times before crumbling to the ground – he was done. The other two bulls did not immediately leave him but did so after several seconds.
Even though my Krieghoff kicks hard, I did not feel anything but elation in knowing instantly that I had make a good shot at 90 yards and I had seen him jump when hit by the 400-grain soft-tip Nosler bullet. I immediately reloaded with a solid in the right chamber, exactly like the cartridge in the left chamber. We walked to the bull but could not see him in the dense grass until within 25 yards, where I placed an insurance bullet into his spine. I know Stu knew the bull was finished because he did not intervene when I walked up and placed the tip of my barrel on the bull’s right eye.
I unloaded and said a short prayer over this magnificent creature which was much bigger that my previous two bulls taken in 2021 and 2022. Everyone arrived from their hide in the bush with broad smiles and congratulatory hands reaching out. The old Dagga Boy was then pulled out of the tall grass and positioned for many pictures with our entire crew.
The process of loading the bull onto the vehicle was like art in motion by the entire crew as I watched the one-ton buffalo being loaded in the Land Cruiser. Arrival back in camp was a joyous occasion – the celebration started with a shot of Port and was followed by repeated stories of the stalk and how lucky we were, in so many ways. Dinner and bed followed but the adrenalin was still flowing throughout my body and finally the last look at my phone showed midnight. I awoke again at 05:00 to start another day in the bush.
Because I had filled my tag with a tremendous African Cape Buffalo just short of 43” and did not have any other species on my list, Dave asked if he could use my rifle for some hunting of his own. Of course, I had no objection, and each day we searched for a tuskless cow elephant and possibly a trophy bull, which we had not yet encountered. Every day that we hunted, we saw many herds of elephants consisting of 10 to 50 in each herd. However, we never found either of the two desired animals. Dave also wanted a good bushbuck which we found, and he took one afternoon. I had never considered a bushbuck, but it has a beautiful set of spiraled horns, so I may consider it on future hunts.
The whole time pictures were being taken I was in my own world thinking about taking the life of this magnificent animal and justifying it by knowing many others will live out a full life, as this one had, due to the money that the hunters like me pay toward keeping and growing the numbers of animals living and thriving in the wild. Without the hunters’ money going into this type of adventure and curbing the massive amount of poaching, the animals would lose their value to many of the local people, and they would be killed for subsistence and eliminated quickly.
While sitting around the fire that evening I told Stu and Dave I would be interested in taking a baboon and a warthog if we could find one bigger than the one I had previously taken on my first safari in 2021. I had pictures on my iPhone so both could see the size I was looking for.
On our next few days of hunting, we continued to see numerous elephant herds but not a single tuskless cow or trophy bull. We saw many warthogs, but most had offspring with them. Several males were available, but the tusks were smaller than I wanted. A lone male lion watched us that afternoon from a ridge about 150 yards away. Afterward, we busted three lions resting in a thicket as we were on our way to check out another waterhole. They did not look happy to see us. We ended our trek to the waterhole and headed back to the truck. Many stories of our adventure were told over dinner and sitting around our relaxing fire that evening.
On Saturday, the sixth day of hunting, we were on our way to a well-used waterhole when we spotted a troop of baboons along a riverbank in thick trees and started a stalk toward them. With 30 to 40 in the troop, it’s almost impossible to get close to them without at least one seeing you. The troop was quickly alerted and kept lots of distance between themselves and their enemy – us. We followed them at a distance for 30
minutes and then headed back to the riverbank with the trees, where they had initially been spotted. We hid in the bush and waited in a nice hide. They did not disappoint and returned to the area. Again, one or more spotted us and once again they ran but this time from our right to left. Stu quickly realized the big male was going to cross an opening between two trees on the riverbank and let me know to shoot when he was visible. I was ready for the big guy when he appeared and let a 400-grain solid fly as soon as I saw his fur hit the opening. The big bullet connected, and he was finished. After pictures were taken, we headed to the waterhole for a chance at a big-tusked hog. We built a perfect blind in the thicket 50 yards from what seemed to be the favorite mud-bath location. We were prepared to wait most of the day for the right opportunity. Although nothing appeared that we were satisfied with taking, we did see13 warthogs, 29 sable, a giraffe, a herd of 20 impala and a herd of zebra visit the water hole within the next four hours. We packed up after the visitors went about their daily visit and hit the trails again to check out our possibilities before heading back to camp at sunset.
On my last day in Zimbabwe, I again awoke at 04:30, even though I did not have to be up before 07:00. Nelson, as was normal routine, had a pot of coffee and a kettle of hot water sitting on the open fire situated in the middle of the concrete outdoor porch. I poured a cup and sat outside in the cool darkness waiting for the sun to rise. The fire had mostly been subdued and the hope for rain looked promising in the overcast dark sky. I listened intently for the beautiful and soothing sound of Simba in the calm cool morning of darkness. Simba’s soothing sound did not come, probably because the huge fires drove most of the animals away from Unit 2 and into the surrounding areas which had not been touched by the fires. Knowing Simba was not near, I immediately started glassing the plains in the distance to the east and northeast in search of the herd of roan antelope which we had watched just prior to sunset the previous evening.
The 20 roan included two young calves which were fun to watch trying to keep up with their moms in the herd.
They were nowhere to be found that morning which did not surprise me. What did surprise me was I saw no elephants, where I normally saw herds of 20 or more, off to the east prior to the burn areas. A couple of kudu cows did show up a short distance from camp as the sun continued to rise. I had already finished my coffee and oatmeal with toast when Stu and Dave arrived. On the previous night I had counted out tip money for the camp employees and after Dave and Stu had finished breakfast, the employees came into the dining area one at a time for me to thank them and say our goodbyes.
Packing to leave this beautiful country left me with many mixed thoughts and emotions. However, the one that I will embrace is that I will be back in a few months to start another great adventure on here, once again, looking for an old Dagga Boy.
We left camp after the vehicle was loaded with all our gear and trophies. Our first stop was at a government facility where the Cape buffalo, baboon and bushbuck skulls were dropped off to be recorded and measured. At the facility, we once again saw and talked to Kirsten who was delivering many animal skulls for recording, including two elephant and two lion skulls. Jonathan was then delivered to his home in the government compound located another 30 minutes away.
When we finally got back on a tar road, Stu quickly picked up speed for the 40km distance to Victoria Falls Airport. After unloading and saying our goodbyes, Dave and I headed toward the check-in counter for South African Airlines. Afterward is when the delays started – we waited 25 minutes for the Zimbabwean police to show up to clear my rifle. Eight of them took me, with my baggage, into their small office and went through the paperwork for at least 15 minutes, then counted each bullet remaining that I possessed to take back home. I was finally released to exit the room with my rifle and case being carried to the proper location for weapons to be loaded onto the flight leaving Zimbabwe. I had to retrieve my rifle in JNB after our flight from Zimbabwe and recheck it for the flight back to Newark. I then went through customs and rechecked my bag and rifle, all within the two-hour layover I had before my final flight that day to Denver, Colorado.
Although I am 76 years old, I will continue to hunt the African Cape Buffalo in one of the many great countries of Africa for my remaining years. Hunting it is at the top of my list of adrenalin-pumping adventures which I can accomplish. All of this would be impossible without the outstanding dedication of the many great professional hunters and their staff. My experience in hunting the African Cape Buffalo only extends back to 2021 when I hunted with Dave Freeburn of Dave Freeburn Safaris in South Africa. Both 2021 and 2022 with Dave were outstanding, professional, and successful hunts, resulting in two old Dagga Boys.
This year’s hunt, 2023, took place with Classic African Hunting, located in Zimbabwe, Matetsi, Unit 2, with PH Stewart “Stu” Taylor. Stu is a mild mannered, totally professional PH. He conducts your hunt at your pace and ensures you know exactly what is needed from you and himself for the hunt to be successful, while at the same time getting all the excitement and enjoyment from your hunt that you deserve.
Next year, 2024, is shaping up to be one of my most enjoyable hunts with Dave Freeburn Safaris when I hopefully can take two additional hunters and friends to Dave’s Silent Valley Camp.
I encourage all of you hunters, if you have not yet experienced an African Safari, to start your preparation now for the hunt of a lifetime. My only regret is that I did not start down this path until later in life. However, I am quickly making up for the adventures lost.