SOUTH AFRICA: Cape Buffalo with 1895 .405
2012 South Africa Safari for Cape buffalo with .405 Winchester
More than two years of preparation for this hunt began with the decision to use my Miroku made Winchester 1895 .405 WCF takedown rifle to take a Cape buffalo. Though many buffalo have been taken with the standard 300 grain .405 bullets, the 笛udge G modification (reaming the chamber to allow crimping the 400 grain Woodleigh bonded JSP and FMJ bullets at their cannelure) allowed me to use these heavier bullets to duplicate factory ballistics of the highly respected 450/400 Nitro Express 3 cartridge which is known to be effective on large and dangerous game such as buffalo. The following is the story of the culmination of this effort in Africa.
AN ENTHUSIASTIC BEGINNING
Landing Monday morning May 28, 2012 at O.R. Tambo Airport in Johannesburg, RSA after the 15 hour flight from JFK brought our group of five sleepy hunters back to life in anticipation of the coming seven days of hunting with Chris Troskie Safaris Africa. African Hunting Outfitter offering safaris in South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique - www.ct-safaris.com
After clearing customs with the expert assistance of Air 2000 personnel and pocketing our gun permits, four of our group left for their plains game hunt in a small bus for the lodge near Lephalale in western Limpopo Province and I left in the Toyota hunting truck of dangerous game professional hunter, Johan Cornelius, for the South African Lowveld region to pursue my first Cape buffalo.
Josef Riekers of TAR Sporting Agency had booked the hunt and he had explained to me that where Johan and I would hunt there was a large buffalo herd that had recently broken up into a main herd of 100 animals and several small herds of old cows and a much lesser number of old bulls, some solitary and others in very small groups. It was desired to reduce the numbers of old cows and old bulls, so I had been given the choice of taking either an old cow or bull at the same price. Since the probability of locating the more numerous cows was much better and I had only a week to hunt, the old cow was my choice.
ON THE ROAD AGAIN
As we drove east towards Mozambique on the N4 highway, we had plenty of time to get acquainted and I was pleased to learn some details of Johan痴 PH experience which had begun at age 18 and covered over 15 years of hunting in RSA, Botswana, and Zimbabwe. Whether with bow and arrow or rifle, hunting buffalo was his favorite thing to do. His love of hunting buffalo and his experience as a partner and pilot in a commercial air charter service further convinced me that Chris had chosen the right person for my hunt. Johan also proved to have a good sense of humor when we stopped for diesel fuel and a comfort break at the Alzu Petroport; there we visited the glass walled men痴 room where we could view Cape buffalo in a pasture below; another new African experience for me and I hope that it was one-way glass. Fortified with Cappuccino coffee and a giant chocolate chip muffin we drove on and soon dropped down through a pass in the Drakensberg Mountain range into the sub tropical Lowveld where we passed by plantations of oranges, bananas, sugar cane, pineapples, and mangoes; this reminded me of the crop fields of Kauai, the Garden Island of Hawaii. We soon arrived at the Paradise Creek motel, our base of operation for the hunt. This is near the Malelane Gate entrance to Kruger National Park, which I hoped to visit after shooting a buffalo.
The Paradise Creek features a pleasant indoor/outdoor bar and restaurant adjacent to a covered patio and swimming pool which are surrounded by tall trees and chalet buildings with two guest rooms per building. After a good dinner we adjourned to our rooms to unpack and get some sleep to be fresh for the hunt the following day. Then disaster struck! My gun permit was missing and nowhere to be found. As if this was not enough, when I dry fired my rifle, the lateral adjustment of the receiver sight was loose and would need to be fixed and test fired before we could hunt; another real bummer. Sleep came slowly that night and was frequently disturbed by occasional loud metallic bangs as fruit from the trees fell onto the metal roof.
After we ate an excellent Tuesday morning breakfast, Johan called Chris so he could report my lost gun permit to the police so they could provide me an affidavit proving that I had had a valid permit should we be stopped and checked before Air 2000 could provide me with another permit. Then in my room, Johan quickly determined that the set screw for the lateral sight adjustment was missing and my luck changed when the tiny screw was found inside the soft rifle case and Johan reinstalled it with his Leatherman tool, locking in my crude alignment of the peep sight.
Then it was off to the hunting area just south of the Crocodile River which forms the southern boundary of Kruger Park, to pick up trackers James and John who would direct us to their range to sight in my rifle. The 途ange proved to be the lower side of the dirt dam of a lake where we were to hunt; you have to love Africa. John scraped out a place on the sloping dirt of the dam for the large white plastic jug upon which Johan had used a marker to draw a two inch black dot for an aiming point while Johan maneuvered his hunting rig into position to be used as a shooting platform 50 yards from the target.
A herd of several dozen buffalo were grazing about a half mile below the dam when we drove up to the dam, but they had departed by the time I had fired the few shots required to make the final sight adjustments. When my hand loaded 400 grain Woodleigh solid hit in the two inch black dot, I was ready. Johan test fired his .375 H&H once and then proclaimed it was time to go hunting. We drove on the two track trail across the dam, through a sparsely wooded slope, and up on to the thickly wooded ridge to the hunting camp near the ridge top. We quickly dismounted and after loading our rifles, James and John led the way up the ridge, all the time watching and listening for signs of game and checking the wind.
We soon came across buffalo spoor, tracks and cattle僕ike droppings, from the previous night. With the wind in our faces, we followed this spoor until we came across fresher spoor; both trackers tested the droppings with their boots and agreed to follow the new spoor. Soon, the droppings became so fresh that they and the sand where they lay were quite damp; we were getting close, so I checked my rifle to be sure a loaded round was in the chamber.
THINGS GET REALLY INTERESTING
Then the spoor left the sandy trail and went straight into the thick, dry, thorny woods where the ground was littered with dead leaves and dry twigs which would make our passage very noisy, so Johan and the trackers held a conference. Johan pointed out to me the sound of Oxpecker birds(tick eating birds that accompany buffalo) directly ahead of us and that the sound seemed to be slowly moving to our left. Johan was confident that the birds were following a small group of buffalo and that we should hunt them to see if there was a shooter in the bunch. It was decided that we would turn left on a sandy trail so the wind came directly from our right and quietly hunt parallel to the buffalo while looking for an opportunity to see them or intercept them. Within a hundred yards, the opportunity to intercept came in the form of an open sandy trail at right angles to our path. We turned right and silently crept along until both trackers dropped to a crouch and pointed into the bush just to our left.
After a quick look, Johan grasped my right sleeve and gently pulled me a couple of steps where he set up the sticks and pointed to the backside of a huge buffalo cow slowly grazing away from us in the dim and mottled shade of the trees, showing us only her backside and a little of her left side. The range appeared to be only 15 to 20 yards and I would need to shoot before she grazed out of sight in the dense cover. As I eased the 1895 onto the sticks I quietly whispered in Johan痴 ear, where do I shoot? He answered 澱etween the front legs (that humor again). So I did, placing the front sight bead just behind the last rib and squeezing the trigger; the cow jerked and kicked a hind leg in reaction to the impact of the 400 grain soft point. As I rapidly levered in a solid, she had begun to move off to her right behind a tree so I threw a shot at her soon-to-disappear backside. My luck held and the bullet broke the back at the pelvis, causing the cow to fall heavily to the ground and emit a very loud bellow that could have been heard for a mile.
Unfortunately, the bellow was heard and immediately brought some of her companion buffalo running from beyond where she went down. Johan had his .375 up now and told me 途eload and get ready? We could see the front legs of at least three buffalo moving our way through the dense cover no more than 10 yards away, so Johan and the trackers began making loud guttural sounds and shouting at them until they slowly backed out of sight. Meanwhile, where had my fallen buffalo gone? She was nowhere in sight, so we slowly eased forward to where she had hit the ground and saw that she had dragged herself another several yards into the brush. As we approached, she let out a loud death rattle bellow and this attracted buffalo again. Once again, the loud grunting and yelling eventually caused them to retreat and Johan was able to touch the dead buffalo痴 eye with the end of his rifle barrel to determine that it was now really lifeless. Even then, we kept our rifles at the ready for several minutes just in case any other buffalo were to approach and try to get even.
CRS and PH
CRS and Trackers
What luck! It seemed that everything went our way once the rifle sight was fixed. We found buffalo on the first day of the hunt, were downwind from them from the beginning making them totally unaware of our presence, the Oxpeckers gave away the location and direction of travel of the buffalo, the last of the small group had just passed when we came up from behind (we could have walked right into the middle of their parade), and the last animal was a huge old cow, which was just what we were hunting. Also, my weeks of practicing shooting quick three shot groups from the sticks (as taught by coach Joseph Riekers) paid off by getting in the fast second shot to the spine that avoided having to track a wounded buffalo into thick cover. The skinners found that the first shot had plowed through the stomach area and put a big hole through the heart before it exited the body between the front legs; just as my PH requested! Serendipity! I am now beginning to understand why so many hunters keep coming back to Africa to pursue the Cape buffalo.
ALL DOWN HILL FROM HERE
Johan is quite familiar with Kruger Park, so we spent the afternoon driving from the Malelane Gate over to exit at the Crocodile Bridge and saw elephants, hundreds of buffalo, rhino, giraffe, kudu, wildebeest, other animals and many interesting birds. Then it was back to Paradise Creek for celebratory whiskies and cigars before a big steak dinner. We left Paradise Creek at 4:am the next morning for the six hour drive to Lephalale to join Chris Troskie and the other hunters to pursue for the rest of the week trophy waterbuck and warthog, but that is another story for another time.
African sunset pic from lodge