The Tyler businessman didn't break any hunting laws so it wasn't a legal statue.
His was more of an oops. An expensive oops when you get down to it.
A year ago Howell and friend Dennis Darrel traveled to Zimbabwe to safari. It was a festive trip that started with tours of the great gun makers of England, Rigby, Holland & Holland and Purdy. From there they went to eastern Zimbabwe to a concession on the Limpopo River, a 12-hour drive from Johannesburg.
The two had come to Africa for big game. Darrel was looking for an elephant while Howell was targeting a cape buffalo.
“Basically, we arose each morning about 5 a.m., had breakfast, and in the meantime the trackers would scout the road bordering the river looking for buffalo coming across the Limpopo from Krueger National Park in South Africa,” Howell recalled.
The hunters were with Pelandaba Safaris out of Johannesburg, South Africa.
It was the third day of the hunt when trackers returned to camp telling they had spotted the tracks of a big bull, locally called a dagga. From that point on, everything happened in whirlwind fashion.
“We walked about a mile or so and then cut into the thick cover that borders the river. The professional hunter spotted the buff with the help of the scouts and motioned me forward. I placed my rifle across the shooting sticks and could just see the outline of the buff about 75 yards away,” Howell said.
Shooting an English-made Whitworth .375 H&H magnum, Howell carefully took his shot. It was apparently perfectly placed because in a rare instance the bull dropped straight down into the high grass.
And that is the point when the hunt became very interesting.
“Almost immediately out of the exact same spot, another buff came crashing out of the bush toward us. Thinking this was the same buff I had shot at, instinctually I knelt and aimed. He came charging at us and, at about 25 yards, veered full speed sideways. I shot and heard him hit the bush heavily. I was ecstatic thinking I had dropped the original buff,” Howell said.
And then came the oops moment.
“At that point, the PH said, 'Gary, why did you shoot the second one?' I asked him what he meant by the second one. That is when he asked me if I had heard him say 'he's down?'” Howell explained.
“Of course, I had not.”
Excited, the trackers immediately swarmed Howell with congratulations, but the reality of it is that cape buffalos don't come cheap and the hunter had two down within 50 yards of each other. Hunting being hunting, however, that wasn't the time to worry about costs.
Thanks to Darrel, who didn't tag out on the trip, Howell did get a bit of a discount for the second, somewhat smaller bull.
Besides the extra check to the outfitter, Howell also literally paid a pound of flesh to the local tribe.
“One other interesting fact, to hunt in Zimbabwe you must work through some representative of one of the tribes there. In our case, it was the local chief. Ironically, after the two buffaloes were killed word must have spread quickly as before the day was out an emissary of the chief called on us and 'requested' a side of beef from the buff. As well, the chief was out of diesel and wondered if we could spare five liters,” Howell said.
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