First timer's questions about Cape Buffalo

Donnachaidh

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I went in my first safari to Africa last year; hunting plains game hunting in Namibia with Kowas. I enjoyed the challenge of fair chase hunting in unfenced areas.
I'm starting to think about my next trip. I'd like to hunt Cape Buffalo, but funds are likely to be limited as we will be moving house within the next two years. However, planning is part of the fun, so I have a initial questions which I'd appreciate some guidance on:
  • As much as I'd love to hunt a bull, I think a cow will be more within my budget. Is there much difference in the hunting experience?
  • Which country and time of year would you recommend?
  • My wife enjoyed coming with me in Namibia; could she come along as an observer, or is it better to have as small a hunting group as possible?
  • Which rifle calibre, make and model would you recommend?
  • What factory ammunition would you suggest?
  • Similarly, what optics should I use? I believe many hunters use low power variable scopes on QD mounts; are Aimpoint sights a good alternative?
Sorry if some of the above seems a bit niave, but this will be a completely new experience for me.
 
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fourfive8

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There is nothing like hunting a dagga boy or small group of dagga boys by tracking. I think there are opportunities to hunt a "non-trophy" bull in many places at a discounted trophy fee. Just have to do the homework to find them. But you may run into higher daily rates simply because it's also considered a DG hunt not a PG hunt- no matter if it is non-trophy bull or cow. Many old dagga boys, by definition, will be non-trophy because many have severely worn or broken horns- goes with the territory of older age and "experience". IMO, a less expensive non-trophy bull hunt would be a better hunt than a cow hunt.

Up to the individual as to who would want to go along. As to caliber and bullet for buffalo- that's been covered ad-nauseum here and elsewhere. Use enough gun and bullet of strong, premium construction. Low-power, quality optics have worked for me. Practice a lot because adequate calibers recoil a lot. Practice off sticks. Practice cycling and reloading under stress. Avoid muzzle brakes.
 
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Eric Anderson

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I went in my first safari to Africa last year; hunting plains game hunting in Namibia with Kowas. I enjoyed the challenge of fair chase hunting in unfenced areas.
I'm starting to think about my next trip. I'd like to hunt Cape Buffalo, but funds are likely to be limited as we will be moving house within the next two years. However, planning is part of the fun, so I have a initial questions which I'd appreciate some guidance on:
  • As much as I'd love to hunt a bull, I think a cow will be more within my budget. Is there much difference in the hunting experience?
  • Which country and time of year would you recommend?
  • My wife enjoyed coming with me in Namibia; could she come along as an observer, or is it better to have as small a hunting group as possible?
  • Which rifle calibre, make and model would you recommend?
  • What factory ammunition would you suggest?
  • Similarly, what optics should I use? I believe many hunters use low power variable scopes on QD mounts; are Aimpoint sights a good alternative?
Sorry if some of the above seems a bit niave, but this will be a completely new experience for me.

In my opinion, hunting a cow is harder. You can find small bachelor herds, but cows are always in a decent sized group. The bigger the group, the more eyes, ears, and noses to bust you.
I have only hunted RSA, so I am not much help there. The end of the rainy season is absolutely gorgeous, but the brush is heavy, and the grass is tall. August is much easier, but the land is rather barren by that point.
I use a Ruger Alaskan chambered in .375 Ruger
In my opinion, the .375 Ruger = .375 H&H
I handload, so no recommendations on factory ammo.
I have never used an aimpoint, so I can’t comment.
 
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WAB

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Zimbabwe or Zambia. There are a couple of intriguing opportunities developing in Moz as well.
Factory loads with Swift A-Frame or Trophy Bonded Bearclaw
.375 as a minimum. .416+ preferable
Take your wife, she will love it
Go for a dagga boy if you can swing the price
 

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I'm hunting Cape Buffalo with Pawprint Safaris in May. I've done a lot of reading/research to be prepared and knowledgeable before I arrive. I too was concerned about the cost. However, the outfitter was willing to let me pay over two years and he had a PayPal link which made sending him money so much easier. I'm glad that more outfitters are doing that. I paid it off in much less time. This will be my first Cape Buffalo hunt.
I'm sure a cow would be exciting if for no other reason than what Eric Anderson said. I have yet to come across a reference that says that cows are not dangerous.
I chose South Africa for my first hunt. That was based on overall price. I prefer April & May because the landscape is usually lush and green. My first hunt was in the Limpopo in September and I found it to be a little depressing. The brush was sparse and dry and many animals were struggling. Just my humble opinion and observation.
Bring your wife. Be happy that she's willing to go with you. You're blessed.
.375 Ruger or H&H will be the legal minimum in much of Southern Africa. I'm taking my Ruger Guide Gun in .416 Ruger. It shoots beautifully. There are many great choices for rifles. Find one that feels right to you. Your life will depend on it.
I handload so I can craft what works best for me. I'm using Hornady cases with a 400-grain Barnes TSX backed up by 78 grains of Alliant power Pro 2000-MR for a little over 2,300 feet per second.
My rifle has a 1-4 Leupold scope. Considering that my shot probably won't be much over 100 yards if not much closer, this is more than adequate.

Regardless, I hope you hunt buffalo. I'm sure it will be a great experience no matter whether it is a bull or cow or wherever you choose to go.
 

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Spend some time on this. You hunted free-range in Namibia and know what a tremendous experience that can be. You can find good hunts behind a fence in South Africa as well - but not all locations are the same. However, one of those outfitters is more likely to have a cow offer than those who guide among the truly wild herds in Mozambique (probably the best place to take a great animal at an affordable price), Zim, Zambia, Tanzania, and Namibia. My first question to a South African outfitter would be whether or not we would be hunting self-sustaining herds. I personally would have no interest in shooting an animal released on a property for the purpose of my hunt. But with the right outfitter, on the right property, you can have a tremendous hunting experience in the RSA for a cow or a bull.

Get a .375 - Ruger or H&H (I much prefer the H&H but the buffalo won't know the difference). The transition from what you used for PG to a .375 is very easy; the caliber with a quality 300 gr bullet is decisive on buffalo of any gender; and you can use it more easily than heavier calibers to take a few head of PG while pursuing that buff. Don't let anyone talk you into a .400 something.

I would be surprised if a few of our sponsors didn't weigh in pretty quickly. One person I know who could put you a cow package together that would be a quality hunt would be Phillip Bronkhorst http://www.pbsafaris.com/ I have hunted bulls in the Caprivi and the Zambezi Delta, and Phillip's operation in the Limpopo was as satisfying an experience as one could wish.

I would strongly suggest going in the fall or winter (theirs). Lots of leafy things and buffalo are not a prescription for a fun walk in the jess. Most of the South African outfitters (Phillip is an example) will have a very comfortable camp/lodge for a spouse observer. That gets less likely the more into the wilderness areas you book a hunt. For instance, I personally love the Zambezi Delta as a place to hunt a buffalo. Mrs Red Leg would not be happy there.
 
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meigsbucks

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Zimbabwe or Zambia. There are a couple of intriguing opportunities developing in Moz as well.
Factory loads with Swift A-Frame or Trophy Bonded Bearclaw
.375 as a minimum. .416+ preferable
Take your wife, she will love it
Go for a dagga boy if you can swing the price
WAB pretty much sums up my sentiments on the subject. One thing about Namibia and RSA, is that buffalo trophy fees tend to be higher. As far as time of year... go when you can but from late July to early September, temps aren’t too hot and foliage is thinner.
I took my buff in the Bubye Valley Conservancy of Zimbabwe. They did offer non trophy (<36”) buffalo hunts. The daily rate was a couple of hundred less and the trophy fee was a a few hundred less. If you can swing the extra $$$, a heavy bossed buff, no matter the spread, is a true trophy.
As far as rifles for buff, you’ve been doing your homework on this site. For bullets, I used a Barnes TSX in a .416 Ruger. Worked perfectly, but so would a Swift AF, Northfork Trophy Bonded and several others.
Yes... take your wife. For the most part my wife stayed in camp during the morning hunt and watched and took pics of animals coming and going to a waterhole. Then “Madam would go with us for a drive” (say it with a British/ African accent) in the afternoons to view game, take pics and we even got in some hunting.
Just do your research and ask the tough questions of the outfitters.
 

Donnachaidh

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Thank you the replies and messages, it's appreciated. A non-trophy bull sounds interesting; I'll start doing some research.
 

Adrian

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Following this with interest.
I too am interested in a Buffalo hunt but want an old, worn down animal, not a perfect 45"+ beast.
Are the old boys with bald faces with broken and worn down horns classed as non trophy or does it depend on the outfitter?
 

WAB

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It really depends on the area. In the Kruger reserves the bull you describe would be in the lowest cost tier. This would still be more expensive than a typical trophy bull in Zim. To me, an old scrum cap would be awesome!
 

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Following this with interest.
I too am interested in a Buffalo hunt but want an old, worn down animal, not a perfect 45"+ beast.
Are the old boys with bald faces with broken and worn down horns classed as non trophy or does it depend on the outfitter?
Just an educated guess by me, but I think cost wise it would be about the same on average. What you save on trophy fees you may give back in daily fees simply because it will probably take more time to find what you are looking for. Of course, you can always get lucky the first day.
 

fourfive8

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Donnachaidh, as meigsbucks posted, a place to start would be the BVC in Zimbabwe. They have a very large population of buffalo and may offer reduced fee non-trophy buffalo. Check with Mazunga Safaris who administers the hunts there. Several PHs operate on BVC and it is an excellent!!! area.
 
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@Donnachaidh,

i started out thinking exactly like you are. taking a cow, since it was noticeably less expensive. i just started saving, and in short time found that i could likely afford to hunt a bull if it was a less desirable (to some) non trophy bull. i ended up at wanting to shoot a broken horned bull. it was a tougher animal to find, because only so many of those bulls exist on any property. thankfully, we found mine on the second day. (see avatar)

.375 and up with good bullets will work nicely for you.

take the wife if she will go, she will decide on how much she wants to actually hunt with you, she might even decide after a few days to do a little plains game hunting of her own.

there are plenty of great outfitters that sponsor this site, and occasionally some spectacular deals will be offered. keep your eyes open and be prepared to step up to one of them. good luck on your planning, thats half the fun anyway.
 
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CAustin

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Sir,
Lot of good thoughts already expressed above. Hunting buff is an intense hunt especially if and when they are moving towards you. Good luck in your quest.
 

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RW,

And though I am a 458 or better kind of guy for anything that can stomp or eat me, I simply wouldn't be telling the truth if I said the 375's aren't up to the murdering of them big stinky bastards.

So when you go and hit one of the beasts, please don't be one of them guys who just stands there with mouth agape and spent round still in chamber like a deer in the headlights.

Get another round in that chamber as quick as you can and prove once and for all that kit is you who is the deadliest creature in Africa!
 

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When I go after my first bull, it will be a "character" bull - an ear half chewed off, lion scars on his back, and tips worn way down. This is an Old Warrior who has earned a Spartan's death. This bull does not deserve to have his teeth worn down through years of chewing tough grasses, to get weak from hunger, and then become easy prey for lions or hyenas. He has earned a quick death.
 

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There are jillions of buff opportunities out there at very very reasonable prices. I’d go for a bull, you can pull the hunt off for around 10k. You’ll need a 375 H&H. Shooting 300 grain Barnes TSX or Swift A-Frames it will do a bang up job and not beat you to death. I’d argue that the good ole 375 has killed more DG than all the rest of the 40 + cal combined.
 
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WAB

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I prefer to hunt the wild areas. I have been fortunate to hunt Remote areas in Zambia, Botswana, Mozambique and Zim. I have hunted the Kruger reserves but these are not as remote as I like although the hunting is stellar. From what I see currently, the least expensive hunts are SA ranch hunts. Not really my thing, but I am sure many offer great hunts. For a wilderness experience at a ‘reasonable’ price, Zim or Zambia. I have a friend opening a new area in Moz just beyond Kruger that sounds promising but I will likely wait a year or so to see how it proves out.
 

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I hunted buffalo last summer with 3 friends. We looked around and negotiated a price for an old hard bossed < 36 inch bull. The hunt actually ended up to be harder than a trophy hunt. All of us had many stalks and sat in the sticks many times. The difficult part was finding an old bull in our size. Luckily our various PH's had to make the call and we all ended up successful with animals a little larger at no extra cost.

Three of us used 375 H&H and one 375 Ruger. Two of us used CZ's, one Winchester, and a Ruger. My CZ I bought used from Cabelas. All these rifles can be found at decent prices. Try them on your shoulder and see which one you like best. The CZ is heaviest but that keeps the recoil down. It also holds more ammo. The Winchester Safari looks great. The Ruger seems to be a little handier to carry. See which one you like best.

Three of us had one shot kills. The other was an ill placed first shot. It ended well after some excitement. Take your time and make the first shot count A .375 H&H is more than enough gun and it can be used on plains game hunts and for bear.

All of us used hand loaded TSXs. My bullet was 350 grains and the others where 300. We all had solids for back up shots. Just an FYI : all of our broadside shots were pass throughs. Our PH's told us this wouldn't happen. Just something to keep in mind if you have 2 animals standing together. If using factory ammo, just find what shoots best in your rifle. The 375 H&H is very forgiving and likes a wide variety of bullets.

We all had low power Leupold scopes. Mine is a 1.5-5. I have shot targets out to 300 yards with it. It is also very good in low light.

Definitely bring your wife. She can concentrate on photography and you on the hunt.

Our summer is their winter and generally the best time to hunt. I would look at the best price and not peg yourself to one country. Our price included daily rate and the trophy fee. All of us shot a few plains game after our buffalo. Two of us hunted alone with a PH and tracker. The other two were father and son, so they opted to hunt together. All of us had everything you could want in a buffalo hunt.

Hope this helps. Good luck.
 

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I hunted buffalo last summer with 3 friends. We looked around and negotiated a price for an old hard bossed < 36 inch bull. The hunt actually ended up to be harder than a trophy hunt. All of us had many stalks and sat in the sticks many times. The difficult part was finding an old bull in our size. Luckily our various PH's had to make the call and we all ended up successful with animals a little larger at no extra cost.

Three of us used 375 H&H and one 375 Ruger. Two of us used CZ's, one Winchester, and a Ruger. My CZ I bought used from Cabelas. All these rifles can be found at decent prices. Try them on your shoulder and see which one you like best. The CZ is heaviest but that keeps the recoil down. It also holds more ammo. The Winchester Safari looks great. The Ruger seems to be a little handier to carry. See which one you like best.

Three of us had one shot kills. The other was an ill placed first shot. It ended well after some excitement. Take your time and make the first shot count A .375 H&H is more than enough gun and it can be used on plains game hunts and for bear.

All of us used hand loaded TSXs. My bullet was 350 grains and the others where 300. We all had solids for back up shots. Just an FYI : all of our broadside shots were pass throughs. Our PH's told us this wouldn't happen. Just something to keep in mind if you have 2 animals standing together. If using factory ammo, just find what shoots best in your rifle. The 375 H&H is very forgiving and likes a wide variety of bullets.

We all had low power Leupold scopes. Mine is a 1.5-5. I have shot targets out to 300 yards with it. It is also very good in low light.

Definitely bring your wife. She can concentrate on photography and you on the hunt.

Our summer is their winter and generally the best time to hunt. I would look at the best price and not peg yourself to one country. Our price included daily rate and the trophy fee. All of us shot a few plains game after our buffalo. Two of us hunted alone with a PH and tracker. The other two were father and son, so they opted to hunt together. All of us had everything you could want in a buffalo hunt.

Hope this helps. Good luck.
I never understand why many PH’s want solids for backup on buff when we have the TSX which is a beast of a bullet. From my experience solids are only good for elephant. Nice to hear of your hunt.
 

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