By Tom in Oregon
After a long day and a half of travel, we all agreed to sleep in on the first day at the lodge. Jeff and I awoke at around 10:00 local time. We headed to the range and fired a few rounds to make sure the rifles were still good. Fortunately, the padded travel cases did their job and the sights were on. Then it was off into the bush….
Apparently, it has been raining off and on recently and everything was lush and green. The trees have all their leaves and haven’t started to drop even though it’s now fall here. This will make hunting a bit difficult.
We start the day cruising the various dirt roads looking for Cape Buffalo tracks. We spy some and began a stalk. There are four of us who are armed. Jeff has his custom rifle in .375 Ruger, Jacques has a .375 H&H, Eli has his .460 Weatherby mag, and I have RF’s .500 S&W lever gun.
While watching the wind swirl, we constantly change directions while making our way towards a water hole. After a mile or so, we come up dry. The dung is fresh, the tracks are fresh, but we came up stale.
We hop back up on the Land Cruiser and start driving to another area. I’m not sure how far we had to go, but we never make it there. All of a sudden the truck lurches to a stop, and there, about 10 yards into the bush, are two very large Cape Buffalo. One is very old with the tips of his horns blunted from fighting and rubbing them down, the other is quite a bit younger but with a spectacular curl to his horns. True “dugga boys.” The air is thick with the smell of buffalo.
Eli, our professional hunter/guide, is very excited. Jeff is excited. Me, I’m wishing I had a crew-served weapon.
We dismount the truck as the bulls trot off and disappear like ghosts. The now-still air smells peculiar. It’s either my fear I’m smelling or buffalo sweat.
We begin our stalk in the direction the bulls trotted off. After about a quarter of a mile, we spot them again, just as they grunt and trot off once more. At this point we realize they have circled around and are now stalking us. We are retrace our steps, and just as we begin to smell my fear — I mean the buffalo sweat — they break and trot off again.
After about a half hour of stalking I realize there is sweat dripping from my brow. The air has become stiflingly still and humid. Then we smell the smell again. I can barely make out the back of a buff in the bush. I can’t tell which direction he’s facing though. Apparently, they can also smell or hear us.
The eight minute standoff with the four of us pointing rifles in their direction is tiring. One or both of them have stamped their feet and grunted at us, a sure sign of an imminent charge. Then we hear them as their tremendous bodies trot off, registering seismic activity at roughly 3.0 on the Richter scale.
We decide to wait 10-15 minutes to see if the buffs will calm down at all as we have clearly agitated them beyond their standard pissed off state. We decide to start walking in an arc to keep the wind in our favor, keeping in mind that they are stalking us. Again.
They are about 50 yards off, staring at us through a long open space. The lead old bull decides he doesn’t like what he sees and starts a kind of fast walk straight towards Jeff and me. We are shoulder-to-shoulder and I’m trying to mind meld with Jeff to make him shoot that Black Death in the face before he makes it another yard.
That familiar feeling of my bowels starting to loosen is back. But I’m comforted by the three additional hard-hitting rifles that are poised to deliver a wall of lead. As time slows down I’m mentally calculating the amount of foot-pounds this angry beast is going to absorb at any moment. We already agreed though, that unless Cyncerus caffer was posing a serious imminent fear of death upon us, Jeff would be the solo shooter.
At about the 40-yard point of closure, the buff decided to exit, stage right. Just as his left shoulder becomes visible, Jeff delivers the first shot. The hit is solid, right in the pump house.
As the now really pissed off buff runs one way and the next, trying to find the object of his displeasure, he brings his left shoulder to bare for Jeff to deliver another 300 grains of screaming DGX fury. Jeff is a solid marksman and delivers quite well. As the buff takes another hit to the heart and lungs, his noggin starts to nosedive.
In slow motion, we watch as his head dips, it looks like someone upended a 5-gallon bucket of blood. It pours out of the buff’s nose and mouth. His head and horns make contact with the ground and he does a somersault. As soon as he hits the ground, he’s up and running again. He presents a quartering away shot and Jeff delivers another blow. This time to the right rear of his chest. It doesn’t seem to phase the bucking buff.
As Jeff is racking the bolt again, I’m beginning to relax. I may just live to tell this tale. As the buff is now running away, I tell him give it a “Texas heart shot.” Jeff’s gun made the loudest “click” noise I think either of us have ever heard.
Training kicked in and I take a step forward, holding the Spike Driver at aim point and advise Jeff he may want to reload. We hear crashing in the bush and pause to listen for the death bellow of the magnificent warrior.
All we hear are a few odd grunts. Crap, does this mean the old boy wants round number four? As we are all looking at each other and scanning the scrub for any 1600 pound death machines, we finally hear it. A long bellow that prompts sadness and elation at the same time. The Buffalo is done. Maybe….
We slowly make our way into the thorn bushes. As Jeff and Eli approach, they see an ear twitch. We wait. The next few minutes seemed like an hour. We walk forward and Jeff pokes the back of its head with the end of his barrel and there is no movement. Success.
It takes about an hour to get the beast loaded into the back of the Land Cruiser. My gosh, I’ve upped my estimate of his live weight from 1,600 lbs. to more like 1,800. This thing is huge. To rap your knuckles on his horn bosses is akin to knocking on a rough finished concrete door. I wonder if someone has looked into body armor made of cape buff horn.
Stay tuned for Sable, Kudu, Gemsbock, and a few others. I love this country.