Dan's Zimbabwe Buffalo hunt
Hey Gloucester - enjoyed reading about your experience in Zambia, and I appreciate the lessons learnt. Your three lessons are true; however on my recent buffalo hunt in Zimbabwe it all panned out a bit differently. So I’ll share my story ‘cause you’d like to hear it!
We'd had a two encounters with buffalo in various concessions and I was beginning to frustrate my PH as I simply could not get a good enough look at a buffalo were I was happy to commit to the shot. The Mopani was just too thick and all I could see was a black smudge that might have been part of a buffalo.
I got the speech from Hendrik, my PH on day 6 of a 12-day hunt: "from when we see the buffalo and the buffalo see us, you have 5 seconds to shoot. 5 seconds only. And if you cannot shoot the buffalo where you want to shoot him, then you shoot him where I tell you to shoot him." Harsh words...
On day 7 we cut fresh spoor very early. We followed them up. I was hunting with tracker/skinner Tiger (real name Nyati), an old man from the local community called Chicere, our government scout BB, a young local fellow who knew the area like the back of his hand named Tanda, and my PH Hendrik.
We came upon the buffalo at 11am and got to within 50 yards on our bellies; they were bedded in down in long grass under a tree. There was a dagga boy amongst them but there was no way of getting a shot from where we sat; by the time we made a plan, the wind turned and they were off...
We left them till after lunch and picked up their spoor where they crossed a road. We left old Chicere behind and started after the spoor. 20 minutes into our stalk, Chicere, the half blind old man came stumbling though the bush whistling like some local bird. Tanda raced out to collect him, as it was clear that Chicere could not see us. Chicere had seen the buffalo.
Everyone gathered around Chicere, squatting in a tight circle, as the old man jabbered in Shona and used a stick to explain the situation in the hard packed sandy soil. Without translation I realized that the herd had turned some time ago and was now actually behind us.
We quickly turned and moved fast to catch up to the buffalo. Some 30 minutes passed and we came into a clearing about 60 yards across. Everyone was tense and we all took a deep breath at the same time as we spotted the herd on the other side of the small open flat.
"The grey one!" hissed Hendrik, "Shoot the grey one!" the old bull was standing broadside looking to the left. I could only see his neck and his head was turned so that it was obscured by Mopani. I could feel the men around me willing me to shoot. The animals milled about nervously. I sweated and gripped the big Brno, waiting for an opportunity.
And the opportunity came quickly. As one, the buffalo herd wheeled to the right and ran. I raised my rifle and as the dagga boy wheeled around, he exposed his grey rear for a split second. There was no thought process - the rifle boomed and the Mopani swallowed up the herd. I don’t recall “aiming” or making the decision to fire, it all just happened in half of a split second.
The 500gr Woodleigh "soft" hit the bull an inch to the left of his anus, smashing his pelvis and tearing forward, lodging in his liver and causing massive haemorrhaging. His rear legs folded and the first thing I remember hearing since our encounter with the herd was that long mournful bellow.
As the buffalo raised himself, I could hear "my team" calling out behind me "Shoot masonya, shoot!" I raced around the buffalo and fired at his nose. The 500gr Woodleigh "solid" hammered the bull to the ground, traveling along the length of his spine and lodging at the base of his neck.
"He is blinking Dan, shoot him again" spoke Hendrik. I didn't argue, though I thought it was unnecessary. I put three shots into his shoulder, one of which passed through a large Mopani, deflecting to hit the dead bull a bit too far back.
The men cheered and threw their arms around me. I couldn't believe what had just happened; it happened much quicker than it takes to read about it.
And back to your three lessons, Gloucester:
- If I had listened to my PH all the time, I may have shot a much bigger animal through the ear on day 2 of the safari. But at 120 yards with only a good view of his ear and eye, I'm glad I didn't listen to him! However the 5-second rule did apply - you have to be quick in the thick stuff!
- While I might be able to keep my mouth shut, my PH and the rest of the team couldn't help but shout and cheer once the lead started to fly. And the first thing I heard from my Shona trackers when we made contact with buffalo was “shoot”. Rather distracting at times!
- And as far as guns go, my experience hunting scrub bull in Australia's arid mulga country meant that there was no way I would be hunting cape buffalo with anything other than my dangerous game rifle of some 16 years now, a Brno ZKK602 chambered for the .450 Ackley Magnum launching 500gr bullets at 2400fps.
Can't beat big guns and can't beat big buffalo! Love them both!