Hi all. This is the story of a hunt I undertook back in 2010, organized by the late, great Matt Graham of the former Hunt Australia Safaris and guided by his younger brother. It's been just over two years since Matt's untimely passing, so I thought I'd recap the account of one of the best hunting trips I've ever undertaken anywhere in the world. RIP Matt. Thanks and good hunting mate. This story was published in Guns & Game Magazine, which is also now defunct. Both great losses to the hunting fraternity here in Australia. Credit for many of the photos to my hunting partner, Sean Joyce. Apologies the formatting got knocked around a little. Enjoy! ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- I tore the top off the blue packet and fifty shiny new .458 Winchester Magnum cases rolled out onto the bench before me. Lovingly, each case was sized and lightly trimmed to true up the mouths, before being loaded with Federal 215 primers and a 480 grain Woodleigh RN seated and crimped over a mildly compressed 74 grains of AR2206H. Although I am always a cautious handloader, these cartridges received extra special attention, for they were being taken on a hunt I had dreamt of doing since childhood; a hunt for the much vaunted ‘top-end trio’ of buffalo, bulls and boars. Fast-forward a week and two plane flights; a long year of anticipation came to an end as I found myself at Darwin airport on a balmy Thursday morning to meet my fellow hunter, Sean Joyce from Brisbane. After a day of R&R we were met by our guide, Leith Graham of Hunt Australia Safaris, to make the four-hour journey to our hunting concession. We had booked into Hunt Australia’s main pig hunting property, as it offered a wide variety of game and was more affordable than their more remote Arnhemland camps where monster floodplain buff are the target. Most hunters come here to target tusky boars, but Sean and I had come primarily to target the buffalo which had steadily built in numbers over the years. Being October, it would be a late season hunt with the ‘wet’ fast approaching, but this also gave us the advantage of game being concentrated on any remaining water. The heat and humidity however would be a real battle to contend with, with temperatures pushing 40 degrees forecast for the week ahead and a very real chance of storms. Leaving the bitumen behind, we had only travelled another 30 kilometres when we had our first buffalo experience. A huge old bull and a number of cows stepped across the track in front of us as we dived for our cameras and started clicking away. His heavy horns sagged down from his bosses before sweeping out to an impressive spread; unfortunately though we were still a little way short of our concession so we left them to wander on in peace. Arriving in camp just on dusk, we chose a tent each and settled in before heading in to the main camp building where Leith soon had some tasty scotch fillets plated up alongside a pile of fresh veggies. With bellies full and hearts full of hope we hit the hay, keen for a big day in the field tomorrow. As the sun rose in the eastern sky we were already on the trail, stopping for a quick check to ensure the hardware was still shooting straight. I was using my Mk. X Mauser in .458 Winchester Magnum, topped with a Leupold Vari-X III 1.5-5x20 scope in Warne QD mounts. Sean was carrying his express-sighted CZ 550 Safari Magnum, chambered in .416 Rigby and firing handloaded 410gn Woodleighs over 98 grains of AR2209. While we would both be over-gunned for the smaller stuff, we had decided to stick with one rifle/one load each and they had to be able to handle the buffalo primarily. Making ourselves comfy on the seats atop our Landcruiser shooting rig, we set off into the warm morning air, feeling for all the world like the ‘last of the great white hunters’. Two small mobs of buffalo cows were spotted and glassed over before we veered off the main track to follow a wide, timbered valley. Crossing a dry creek, we hadn’t travelled far when our guide let the ute glide to a halt behind a thick screen of bush. “I reckon there’s buffalo over there,” he gestured as we left the vehicle. Leith sure had good eyes; we had the benefit of elevation and hadn’t seen a thing! I stayed back to watch proceedings with the camera and binos working overtime; it was now obvious there was a good bull trailing the mob, too. I watched as the two hunters snuck in, eventually dropping to a cat-crawl to avoid some watchful cows and pausing whenever they looked alarmed. As they moved in further I lost sight of them, but I kept an ear to the wind, listening intently for any action. After a tense wait back at the truck I finally heard a shot, followed a split second later by another. Jogging a few metres to my left I saw the big bull hit the ground with a thud. As Sean slowly closed in from behind he fired another couple of insurance shots to anchor the bull and it was all over – all within the first hour of day one! I waited until everything had settled down before shouldering the camera bag and walking in to congratulate both hunter and guide. Sean recounted the detail; “We were keeping an eye on the cows to our left as we slowly crawled in to take up position behind some large boulders. Then, as we poked our heads up to glass to our right, my binos were filled with a massive set of horns glaring back at me above the long grass.” Surely a moment he would never forget, being up-close-and personal with the huge beast. He was taken from a mere 25 metres, falling within 12 metres of the first shot. Sean’s trophy was a beautiful heavy ‘sweeper’ bull, carrying his mass right out and showing plenty of character. Measuring 95 SCI points and sporting an excellent cape, he would make a beautiful mount; so Leith set towork caping him out after our long photo session came to an end. I made a mental note that this bull was going to be a tough one to better, and if I could find one as good I’d be a very happy hunter!