A Cape Buffalo Cow Hunting Story

Discussion in 'Articles' started by Brian, May 12, 2017.

  1. Brian

    Brian AH Veteran

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    This story is published in the current issue of The African Hunting Gazette.

    South Africa: Year 2016

    Screen Shot 2017-05-20 at 11.33.11 AM 1.png

    NEVER MIND THE BULL

    For the female of the species is more deadly than the male. Kipling, 1911

    By Brian Gallup

    I was standing on the target range at Buffalo Land Safaris in the beautiful lowveld, near Kruger Park. My rifle was a .577 NE single shot that I recently built from an old 10 ga. shotgun. The bullets were my own 700-grain hard-cast solids. This was going to be an interesting Cape buffalo hunt.

    I had just met my two young professional hunters and I liked them. Kobus was stalky with broad shoulders and huge hands. He was pleasant and looked right at me when he spoke. He proved to be a serious hunter, but he could still laugh about things. Louis was lean and handsome, with a long white scar in his left eyebrow and a natural, wry grin. The grip of a stainless Colt 1911 showed out of an old leather holster on his hip. These guys were the real deal.

    Jock was our cameraman, and turned out to be a savvy bushman as well as an excellent videographer.

    I must have been nervous because I was talking a lot as we hung a fresh target on a backstop in front of an old termite mound. Louis walked back to the shooting bench, assuming that I would shoot from there, but I stopped at 40 paces and sheepishly opened the shooting sticks that I had brought from Canada.

    Nobody said much while the tracker, known as Lieutenant, politely took over the sticks. He was a bright young man, full of life, and he loved setting up those new Vanguard shooting sticks.

    Jock placed his camera tripod about five paces to my left, while Lieutenant stood at his official post on the right side of the shooting sticks. Kobus and Louis stood behind me and waited for me to stop talking and shoot.

    The sun was going to set directly behind the target in about half an hour. I dropped a .577 cartridge into the chamber and closed the barrel. But when I looked at the target through the scope, all I could see was glaring red sunlight.

    “Can’t see a thing!” I said. Kobus came over and stood beside the muzzle to block the sun.

    I looked through the scope again, and could just make out the bull’s eye well enough to shoot.

    “How’s that?” asked Kobus.

    “Perfect!”

    Then I realized that there were three men with no hearing protection, standing around the muzzle of my Nitro Express rifle.

    “This thing has a real loud...,” I started saying, but didn’t finish. It occurred to me that I was about to tell a seasoned PH that a .577 NE was noisy.

    I cocked the hammer, took a breath and squeezed the trigger until it fired. With the recoil and the muzzle blast of 116 grains of slow-burning N550 powder, I didn’t see much at first, just Jock and Lieutenant hopping around holding their ears, and a great cloud of dust rising from the termite mound.

    “Bull’s eye!” Louis shouted from behind me. I was relieved.

    “It works!” I chuckled to myself.

    It was eight the next morning when we left the Land Cruiser and walked another 500 metres further to the east bank of the Klaserie River. Louis said the water was so low with the drought that four resident crocodiles had just disappeared, but the trees along the riparian zone of the river were still green, and the low morning sun shone brightly through them. It was a beautiful place.

    During the Great Trek, this was a traditional hunting area for the Voortrekkers. They would have been carrying single-shot big bores and may have faced the last of the legendary Cape Lions right here. Some folks believe that not all the Cape Lions were killed off by the pioneers in the 1850s as reported in the history books. Oral history holds that a few of these magnificent beasts, with their jet-black manes, came north as far as the Klaserie River area and lived here in relative peace for at least another century.

    The last remaining specimen was an old male that the locals called “Grootpoot”. He, or his huge footprint, was seen near the Klaserie River area in the early 1980s.

    This was good country!

    We were looking for old Cape buffalo cows in an area that had become too dry to support them. For over a year the country had been in a bad drought and many animals were dying. I guess we were culling, but we never looked at it that way. I had hunted Cape buffalo bulls before, but never cows. Kobus reminded me to not underestimate cows.

    “They can be very protective and aggressive.” he said.

    We walked across the river, hardly getting our boots wet. Kobus and Louis gave me the palm-down hand sign to stay low while they glassed across a plain and into the bush on the far side. After a minute they nodded to each other and grinned at me, before leading us straight west across about 300 metres of open flat land that was scattered with a few acacia trees.

    There was no grass at all on the dry ground and our boots raised enough dust for us to read the wind. Louis, Kobus and Lieutenant watched the far bush line as we went. I was pretty excited!

    It was noisy going when we got into the thick sickle bush trees. This tree is considered an invasive weed and has sharp, five-centimetre, thorns that can puncture a tire. I later learned how Louis got that scar in his eyebrow chasing a poacher through this stuff. (The poacher got a hiding for it, too.)

    We worked our way around and under thorn branches for a while. Suddenly, Louis and Lieutenant froze in mid-step. Louis gave Kobus a hand signal, and Kobus handed it off to me, but I didn’t understand it. I just kept close.

    Louis and the tracker moved about 30 metres to the north where they disappeared into a trench-like ravine. Kobus quickly followed down the steep bank and then turned to help me slide in. We were now in a dry flood channel almost four metres deep and about six metres wide at the top. We could use it to sneak further west. The bottom of the trench was all loose stones and I tried to be quiet, but through my electric ear muffs I sounded like a gravel crusher.

    After about 100 metres we stopped and Louis peered over the edge of the south bank for a moment. He was grinning.

    “There is a small herd at about 150 metres. They are slowly moving away,” Louis indicated. “I don’t think they know we‘re here.” Kobus checked the wind and the two whispered something; it took all my strength not to ask a dumb question.

    “We will wait for the wind to change,” Kobus whispered.

    Louis found an easier place for me to climb out of the trench, and when the wind was right we went over the parapet and into more patches of sickle bush. Kobus thoughtfully pointed out a shallow cow track to show me that the herd was still moving slowly. He often did that kind of thing, and it meant a lot.

    In about half an hour we came to a wide open area. On the far side, we saw the buffalo. The herd that we were following must have joined another small herd; they had stopped traveling and were just milling around in the shade.

    With a gentle breeze beginning to swirl, getting close would be unlikely, no matter what direction we approached from.

    So, with Lieutenant in front, and the breeze in our face, we just started marching straight towards the herd in single file across the open ground. We kept going and the herd kept holding. It was just a matter of luck now. This was my first stalk on Cape buffalo in two years, and every step was a thriller.

    At about 80 metres from the herd, Kobus brought me forward to walk with the tracker. I took a couple of deep breaths and it made Louis smile. Finally, at close to 50 metres the cows noticed us, and Lieutenant quickly set up the shooting sticks and held them steady for me.

    Two bulls were curious and stepped toward us for another look, but the cows were moving out. My scope was turned down to 3x power, so I could see most of the herd through it.

    Quickly, Kobus pointed out a tall, old cow quartering towards me. I cocked the hammer, put the crosshairs on the spot that looked like a straight line to her heart, and squeezed off the shot.

    It looked good, but I wasn’t sure. The herd scattered and the old cow hobbled off into the bush, unable to put any weight on her right front leg. Kobus had his .458 Belgium Browning ready. He had to remind me to reload. We waited a couple of minutes. Both Kobus and Louis were looking through their binoculars.

    I was getting a little anxious and whispered, “What do you think?”

    “She’s down.” Kobus whispered back.

    We followed the jagged spoor of the wounded buffalo for about 30 metres, and there she was, under a thorn tree taking her final breath.

    I thanked Louis, Kobus and Lieutenant.

    Kobus and Lieutenant quietly said, “Good shot sir,” when we shook hands. I appreciated their reserved style; respectful to me and respectful to the animal.

    Louis had a smoke lit. He took a drag and said, “Knap gedaan.”

    I didn’t understand.

    “It’s something we say when someone does a good job. “Knap gedaan,” he repeated. “It’s Afrikaans for ‘well done’.”

    At the skinning house the men found my hard-cast .577 bullet. They were quite interested in its size and shape. The nose was just flattened a bit after smashing the cow’s shoulder, going through the bottom of the heart and stopping in a rib on the far side.

    “Knap gedaan,” I said to myself.

    On the third morning the sky was covered in low grey clouds and it smelt like rain. Beautiful rain! One shower and the land would be transformed.

    We drove out past the main camp, waving at the staff and pointing to the sky. They waved their hats back at us.

    Kobus and Louis had a new area in mind. We drove slowly northwest from the river into higher bench land until we came to a power line running north and south. It was a good place to stop and glass for buffalo. Jock did some videoing.

    Kobus said, “Mr Gallup, I must tell you about this power line.”

    He explained that we were standing at one of the few remaining reminders of a very tragic time in Mozambique’s history. In the mid-seventies the Cohora Bassa Power Dam was completed in northern Mozambique. Most of the electricity went to Johannesburg via this very power line which crossed through the northern end of the Kruger National Park.

    During the civil war in Mozambique in the eighties, thousands of people became refugees. They would set out on foot to follow this power line to safety and hope of better times.

    The tragic story goes that the Kruger Park lions got many of them before they ever got to South Africa. Sometimes rangers would go out and shoot a few lions, but it didn’t make much difference - there were lots of lions and lots of refugees.

    “Hard times,” Kobus said.

    After a long pause, “Now we shall go find some buffalo.”

    We walked northeast from there. I could see the line of green trees along the river in the distance, when we came across some fresh spoor. I only knew it was fresh because Kobus and Louis said so. “Lots of cows,” they said, and we followed the tracks north for about a kilometre. It was good walking. We passed two giraffes browsing in the sweet thorn trees and lots of blue wildebeest looking for grass. They were really thin.

    “They look like bicycles.” I whispered to Jock. He wasn’t amused and pointed to vultures feeding on a fresh carcass.

    That’s when we saw Louis stop in a crouch beside two thorn bushes. Jock quickly set his big camera on his shoulder and adjusted the viewfinder.

    I opened and closed the barrel quietly to make sure there was a round in the chamber. My scope was set at 2x power. I was good to go!

    Louis peered around the edge of the thorn bushes, then sank lower before turning to us. No grin this time, just a couple of low hand signals to Kobus and Lieutenant before he pointed to a spot on the ground about two metres beyond the edge of the thorn bush.

    Kobus signalled me forward, while Lieutenant took two more steps out into the open and gently set up the sticks. I could see some buffalo now. Louis was whispering into my electronic earmuffs. He was so close it was mostly static.

    “There is a small herd right on the other side of these bushes, maybe 30 metres. When you get to the sticks you will see three cows and a young, wild-eyed bull standing in front of that tree.”

    He pointed to the top of an acacia tree that we could see over the bush. It looked closer than 30 metres to me!

    “Take the big cow in the middle that’s standing sideways. Never mind the bull!”

    For some reason I was fiercely calm this time and ready for anything. I did as Louis said. There stood the three cows and the young bull on the edge of a small mixed herd. The bull was close and looking at me with his head up and his eyeballs rolled forward, like they do sometimes before they charge.

    I strained to ignore him and put the crosshairs in the right spot on the middle cow as she swung her head and turned half a step towards me. The .577NE bellowed and shoved me back, but I saw everything this time and it was in slow motion!

    Her shoulder muscles rippled with the impact of the 700-grain cast bullet at 1,800 fps, and she jerked up her right leg. I didn’t have to ask anyone about this shot. I reloaded as the herd scattered. The mean-looking young bull must have had enough because he was gone. We moved forward without waiting, and found the cow on the ground not far from where I hit her. Kobus asked me to finish her with a spine shot. I was wound up pretty tight, and the .577NE felt more like a .30-06.

    In less than half an hour the skinners came roaring up on a two-wheel-drive bakkie. They jumped off both sides of the box as soon as it stopped and went straight over to the buffalo.

    Being our second buffalo, their curiosity about the big .577 bullet was gaining momentum. All of them were talking at once as they crowded around the huge bullet hole in the cow’s shoulder. Some of them poked a finger or a thumb in it. I showed them a cartridge. They were fascinated, rolling it over in their fingers for a moment, then looking up at me with a kindred grin.

    The rifle was leaning up against a tree, and that was considered out of bounds. So I picked it up, checked it for empty in front of them, and handed it to a big, serious-looking guy they called Africa. They were pretty impressed with the 14 pound single shot. Each man would cradle it reverently for a moment, then pass it to the man beside him. It was the holy grail of smoke-poles, and they were holding it in their hands! Their talking never stopped, except for a good laugh here and there.

    I asked Louis if he thought I’d ever see my rifle again. He grinned, but he kept listening to the skinners.

    “They’ve named your rifle! Africa did; he gave it a sort of tribal name,” said Louis.

    They all went quiet at some signal, and Louis became the official spokesman.

    “They named it…Vat Nie Kak Nie,” Louis said with some amazement.

    “What does it mean?” I asked.

    “Well, it’s a…it’s a sort of compliment - in Afrikaans.” Louis was searching for the words.

    “It means, uh…uh…’Doesn’t Take Crap’. Yes: Vat Nie Kak Nie - Doesn’t Take Crap!” he said louder.

    All the skinners, who were pretending they didn’t speak English, burst into laughter. Then we all did. What a morning!

    It never did rain that day. In fact, it wouldn’t rain for another month, and I wouldn’t be there to see it. I left that amazing place two days later.

    It was a wonderful hunt. The country, the animals, the people… everything.

    I’m going back to the lowveld as soon as I can.

    Retired in BC, Canada, Brian recalls that his first formal hunting trip was with his father in 1958, for pronghorn antelope in southern Alberta, Canada. He and his wife Sandy have lived and hunted in some pretty remote places, including the MacKenzie River Valley in Northern Canada. They now spend more time in South Africa. “We keep going back to hunt and explore. We have booked our next trip with our children and grandchildren.”
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 20, 2017

  2. gillettehunter

    gillettehunter AH Legend

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    Sounds like a wonderful buffalo hunt to me. Casting your own bullets for buf is a little less common.... Thanks for sharing. Bruce
     
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  3. Dr Ray

    Dr Ray AH Elite

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    Fascinating and entertaining. I have used cast lead bullets I made in 30/06 and 270. The 270 bullets with a fast powder shot lower than the normal ones but same east west.
    So I was very interested to read about the cast bullets of 700 gns.
    Wow!
    I must congratulate you on your hunt and from my perspective I was particularly interested in the performance of the hard cast bullets. Looks like they did the job. I thought they might have drilled right through though so would like to hear another hunting story on day deer.
     
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  4. Brian

    Brian AH Veteran

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    Thanks for your kind comments.
    The 577 does not have excessive pennetration. The bullets went through both shoulders but always stayed inside the animals. ( I killed three cape buffalo cows on that trip.)
    The hardcast bullets did not expand past 600".
    I made the rifle out of a H&R 10 gauge shotgun. Weight was 13 lbs. with a 27 inch barrel.
     

  5. stug

    stug AH Fanatic

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    Hi Brian, hope you don't mind me adding this

     
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  6. CAustin

    CAustin BRONZE SUPPORTER AH Ambassador

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    Thank you for sharing this article
     
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  7. Brian

    Brian AH Veteran

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    Stug, Thanks for posting the video! That really adds to it.
     
    Last edited: May 12, 2017

  8. Dr Ray

    Dr Ray AH Elite

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    Thank you for the video. It is excellent!
     
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  9. Ridgewalker

    Ridgewalker AH Legend

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    Wow! The report, the video...I felt like I was there bruised shoulder and all:)!
    Thanks guys!
     
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  10. PeteG

    PeteG AH Elite

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    :ROFLMAO::ROFLMAO::ROFLMAO::ROFLMAO:
    Nice report (y)
     
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  11. Brian

    Brian AH Veteran

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    PeteG, Thanks for your kind words.
     

  12. Brian

    Brian AH Veteran

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    I have a photos of the rifle and a recovered bullet on my facebook page. Brian Gallup
     

  13. PARA45

    PARA45 AH Fanatic

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    What a great hunt! Thank for such a wonderful and detail report, enjoyed every bit of it. Please post pictures of your Doesn’t Take Crap rifle. (y)
     
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  14. Brian

    Brian AH Veteran

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    PARA45, Thank you for your generous comments. There is a video above that shows the rifle. Also there are two photos of the rifle and a recovered bullet on my facebook page. Brian Gallup. I have not learned how to post a photo yet, I sorry to admit.
     

  15. PARA45

    PARA45 AH Fanatic

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    I watch the video after my post, and realized that it was you and your rifle. Well done sir. I also noticed that you smoke cigars. I am a huge cigar smoker (can't say aficionado), but I do like my cigars. Especially a victory cigar after such a wonderful and successful hunt.
     
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  16. Brian

    Brian AH Veteran

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    Para45, We are kindred spirits!
     
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  17. Brian

    Brian AH Veteran

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    The recent book "The Man-eaters of Eden" is about the lions killing people/refugees in KNP. Good read.
     

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