A tired crew in front of the cave with a worthy trophy.
By Ricardo Leone
This past January 2023 at the DSC Show, I was reunited with my Professional Hunter, Gamshad Gam, from a memorable Tanzanian Safari, nearly a decade ago. We had not seen each other nor talked since October 2013. As we sat in his booth to catch up on our respective life events, we immediately talked about our unforgettable Warthog chase – some things you just cannot make up!
So, what do you do with a Warthog in a cave?
This was not your usual vertically oriented cave that comes to mind – the type of cave one just walks into. The cave’s entrance was about half way up a rock cropping – almost suspended in air. Its’ shape was horizontal – only two to three feet high and twenty or more feet wide. The cave was likely home to predators based on all the old bones we found just outside the entrance. On the rocks above the cave, were Hyraxes just looking at us. At first the Hyraxes just sat and watched us try to solve the question of the day, then with a blink of an eye – they were gone. I am confident If they knew the forthcoming entertainment – they would have stayed to watch the antics.
The cave opening halfway up the rock outcrop.
We had to climb up a good ten feet slope to the entrance of the cave. While we believed the Warthog was in there, we could not see into the cave. I cannot recall whose idea it was, but either Gamshad or our tracker came up with the idea to light a fire in the cave’s entrance and smoke the Warthog out. The crew assembled a firepit on the ground below the cave and started a fire. They cut down leaf covered saplings, lit the leaves, and tried to stuff the burning saplings into the cave without the fire going out. In parallel, Gamshad positioned me at one corner of the cave’s mouth looking across the entrance – he asked me to sit ready with my rifle in hand for when the Warthog ran out. Well so much for a grand plan, the smoke found its way into everyone’s eyes, except the Warthog’s, and the saplings burned out without the Warthog or anything for that matter exiting the cave.
The last whisps of smoke after our failed effort to smoke the warthog out of the cave.
It was now past 2pm, some five hours after our first sighting of this Warthog. If the Warthog was not coming out – then we had to go in. However, we had a problem – we could not find a torch in the Land Cruiser. Gamshad sent our driver, Mushi, back to camp to retrieve both a torch and a rope. Mushi’s drive would take at least an hour. In the meantime, as the firepit still had embers – the crew decided it was time for lunch!
I was not really in an eating mood; however, I had to do something to pass the time as no one else was interested in my Warthog at that moment. While the crew settled in to cook a hot meal, I grabbed a cold sandwich from the cooler and found a rock to sit on to reflect on the events of the day that lead us to such an unusual predicament. This was only on my second African hunting safari – I was still climbing a steep learning curve. We were in the Kizigo Hunting Block in Tanzania, and it had been a hard trip to date and rough living. It was day ten or our twelve-day safari and I still had a Warthog on my wish list. I really wanted to harvest my first Warthog – so much so that when I had an opportunity at 8:30am that morning – I rushed a shot on a running Warthog and missed.
Ok, it was “game on” – I needed to find another Warthog. This was my sole goal for the remaining three days of the safari. Luckily, within the next thirty minutes, we found another worthy Warthog. This one was about 100 yards away off to our right. We were driving in a dried riverbed, so the Warthog was slightly above us up on a ridge. Gamshad had me steady my rifle on the cab of the Land Cruiser for the rising shot. I quickly took aim and shot. I knew the moment I fired, that I pulled the gun right. Sure enough, I hit the Warthog in the back leg or foot. The Warthog spun around and ran back behind the vehicle and away from us. While I was sure the Warthog was not happy about his foot, it could still motor along. Everyone except our driver, Mushi, got off the Land Cruiser and we started what was going to be a very long stalk. The best way to share our journey is to recall our timeline.
I shot this Warthog at approximately 9am. The injured Warthog ran onto a rocky area, so while not great for leaving tracks, we were able to pick up a blood trail. The heat of the day intensified shortly after 9am and was relentless until late afternoon. For the next two hours we tracked this Warthog in the open sun– at times it seemed we were going in circles. I really admire the trackers – between intermittent tracks and blood drops we were able to keep on the Warthog’s never ending winding trail. We had surmised that I must have shot the Warthog’s foot from the tracks.
By 11am, we were exhausted from the heat or at least I was. We all took a break to drink water and rest in the shade. One of the trackers went back for Mushi and the Land Cruiser so we could have a snack from the cooler – we needed a source of energy. After a thirty to forty-five minutes break, it was time to resume tracking. We assumed the Warthog was also resting somewhere – we just had to bump him.
Shortly after we resumed tracking, the government Scout and a junior tracker believed they found the Warthog in a burrow. The two of them were in front of the rest of us. Gamshad and the senior tracker were trying to signal to the Scout and junior tracker to just sit tight. While the Scout and junior tracker should have known better than to provoke the hiding Warthog, they either could not hear Gamshad or were just caught up in the moment. I was just behind the Scout and the junior tracker – Gamshad and the senior tracker were just behind me – we were spread out covering as much ground as possible. Before you knew it, the Warthog literally jumped straight up out of the burrow into the air. I could see the Warthog swing his head right, then left, trying to gore the Scout and junior tracker with his tusks – at the same time, the Warthog made a noise that sounded part snort part roar. The Scout and junior tracker leapt back as I shouldered my gun. I had a clear shot but could not fire with the proximity of the Scout and junior tracker. While clearly an exciting moment – there was also frustration towards the unhurt Scout and junior tracker for not being patient and taking advantage of their find. We all just sat back and watched the Warthog run a few hundred yards out of the grassland straight towards a cropping of rocks where it seemed to disappear into the center of the cropping.
The Warthog’s abrupt reappearance happened about 12:30pm. It took a good 30 mins to regroup and make our way to the rocks and cave. As we approached the rocks, the environment transitioned from the extreme heat of the open bush to a partially shaded rocky area that was thankfully cooler. I appreciated the shade while I sat there and finished my sandwich. The crew was totally focused on their lunch and had forgotten about our mission. Mushi returned just past 3pm – lunchtime ended abruptly as it was time to answer the question of what to do with a Warthog in a cave.
Mushi brought a large torch and a long winch strap. Seemed we had all the equipment for the extraction. Gamshad sent one of the crew into the cave with the torch to have a look. Poor chap slid in on his side and quickly retreated to tell Gamshad the layout. The tracker explained the Warthog was in the cave lying still in the back corner. Gamshad then sent the same tracker back in with the torch to keep the light on the Warthog. Gamshad grabbed his rifle and started to slide in. He quickly retreated asking for my rifle as I had a red dot in my scope and Gamshad’s scope did not. Gamshad later explained he could not see with his scope and needed my illuminated red dot to aim at the Warthog. The irony was my rifle, a 1960’s classic Griffin & Howe pre-64, model 70 .375 H&H, was going to finish the mission while I was asked to stand down for safety reasons. Trust me, the thought a bullet ricocheting around the cave did cross my mind. I did not vigorously complain being relegated to a spectator. Gamshad grabbed his ear protectors – something the tracker did not have and off Gamshad went again, sliding in on his side. The rest of us stood back and plugged our ears for what was sure to be a sonic BOOM!
Within a few seconds Gamshad fired – the noise was thunderous, and dust billowed out of the cave. Gamshad crawled backwards out of the cave with a smile on his face saying, “we have our Pig”. A few moments after Gamshad exited the cave, the tracker came out – poor chap had dust all over his face and body and he was shaking his head trying to stop his ears from ringing. The same tracker grabbed the winch strap and went back into the cave to tie one end to the Warthog. At 4pm, some seven hours after I made the initial poor shot, the Warthog was finally pulled out of the cave. After a thorough photo session, our exhausting Warthog hunt was complete. This was a true team effort.
Gamshad inspecting the cave and “making a plan.”
Gamshad and Tracker deciding how to enter the cave.
Gamshad going into the cave to shoot the warthog.
Literally everything in the Land Cruiser had been emptied out – it seemed we had set up a new camp in front of the cave. Even the firepit was still smoldering. At 4:30pm, it was time to pack up the Land Cruiser, load the Warthog and head back to camp. We made it back to camp before the other hunting party returned from their afternoon game drive. I showered, sat by the camp fire and sipped a gin and tonic as I continued to reflect on the day trying to organize my racing thoughts into a concise story – one I could share over sundowners. I was not sure if this was going to be an embarrassing story or a fantastic hunting story – the truth was somewhere in the middle.
In the end, the Warthog was the last trophy of my very successful safari. The last two days of our safari ended up being exclusively a photo safari – no more game worthy of giving chase, but plenty to admire. In hindsight, the Warthog hunt was a fitting end to what was a very hard, yet successful twelve-day hunt, as I bagged everything on my wish list – even my first Pig in a fashion that you just cannot make up.
A relieved hunter with Gamshad still wearing his ear protectors.
Our ten-year reunion – a real pleasure to spend time with an exceptional PH.