Hard Bull vs Soft Bull?

fourfive8

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Is it true that some bulls never harden? At what age is hardening complete? If it varies, couldn’t you have an old daga boy with a soft boss?
Probably varies some as to when the bosses "harden". You can have a big, wide, heavy, fully mature, herd bull that is hard bossed but not particularly old at maybe 7-10 years and definitely not considered a dagga boy. And it probably varies quite a bit as to when they start to become loners or spend a lot of time with other bulls and separated from the main herd living mostly as dagga boys. Old bulls can have craggy, ridged or chipped bosses or even bosses where the ridges have been smoothed but that is different from soft bosses. I don't believe a truly old bull (probably older than 10 or 12) will ever have soft bosses. If you see hair between bosses or don't see ridges or craggy/chipped surfaces or ridges that have been smoothed it will not be an old bull. Really old bulls may actually start losing mass of the bosses and give the appearance of receding away from each other leaving a widening gap between.
 
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Red Leg

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I could see where a rancher could get into a position of needing to monetize a young bull. Ranch hunting is not my cup of tea but if that is what you are doing, recognize that the buff is a crop and the rancher is managing inventory and cash flow. Personally, I will continue to hunt the wild places, but I am willing to pay more to do so.
@WAB has it exactly correct. Hunting a bull on a game ranch is not a wilderness hunt. The animals present are the rancher's commodity and for any number of reasons younger animals may need to be taken. Not my cup of tea either, but neither is hunting a buffalo from a feeding/water point with a bow. I hasten to add, no criticism intended, I fully understand why that makes imminent sense if using a bow rather than a rifle. If you are going to make that sort of hunt, then culling a younger animal at a reduced price might make good sense. I should note, our German colleagues regularly take younger deer that do not show trophy potential or solid genetics as part of their annual shooting plans. So does every Texas rancher with sufficient ground to keep a meaningful whitetail herd. We call them "management bucks".

So let's assume we are a South African game rancher, and by seven or eight years of age it is clear that one or more of our bulls will not reach 38 inches. Let's further assume our bit of ground has a carrying capacity of two-dozen or so cape buffalo all of which are bulls of various ages (a common practice where breeding cows are kept or owned separately). I suspect the math is pretty simple, and culling out younger animals with limited potential to make way for better animals would make solid business sense. If one has already made the decision to hunt a buffalo on a ranch (and many of us have), and costs are playing a major part of that original decision, then I would not be too quick to condemn anyone taking advantage of a price break for a younger animal.
 

postoak

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I am going to guess that most buffalo shot in South Africa are on high fenced game farms so I don't think the normal rules of only taking bulls past the age when they breed really applies. It is up to the landowner to make sure his age distribution is such as to produce a continuing flow of income.

But, with respect to that type of operation, is it understood that any advertisement for a "trophy bull" at full price means a hard bossed one? If an outfitter says that the bull you will be shooting will be soft bossed "because they will have bigger horns than the hard bossed ones" should you walk away, not because that might not be true but because you would be overpaying -- that the expectation is that you will be getting a hard bossed bull at the going rate?
 
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Royal27

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I am going to guess that most buffalo shot in South Africa are on high fenced game farms so I don't think the normal rules of only taking bulls past the age when they breed really applies. It is up to the landowner to make sure his age distribution is such as to produce a continuing flow of income.
Correct.

You're not going to shoot really old bulls, not regularly. It's bad business to slow the turn down that much.

But, with respect to that type of operation, is it understood that any advertisement for a "trophy bull" at full price means a hard bossed one? If an outfitter says that the bull you will be shooting will be soft bossed "because they will have bigger horns than the hard bossed ones" should you walk away, not because that might not be true but because you would be overpaying -- that the expectation is that you will be getting a hard bossed bull at the going rate?
The expectation SHOULD be one of a hard bossed bull, IMO. The number that are shot while still soft (and presented as "mature trophy") is high though, really high..... There are a lot of pictures of soft boss bulls here on AH that were shot as trophies. I think often the hunter doesn't even realize it and thinks he shot a trophy bull.

That's why it's so important to educate yourself and know the difference.
 

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Go for an old hard bossed dugga boy. He has lived a good life and is past breeding stage. The scars, worn horns and nicks and dings attest to him being an old warrior and is much more deserving of a trophy spot on your wall. By taking a younger soft bossed bull, you may be taking a good breeder out of circulation, one who has good genes yet to pass along. He may be a little bigger but is without character, a clean faced kid.
 

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Any outfitter that is willing to sell a "soft" bull, should be avoided.... Then rather hunt a few old cows.
 

ndumo HUNTING SAFARIS

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Is it true that some bulls never harden? At what age is hardening complete? If it varies, couldn’t you have an old daga boy with a soft boss?
Generally they are completely hard by 7 to 8 years of age. Sometimes the bosses split again, and some uninformed people will consider this gap between the horns a soft patch, and tell you its not completely hard.
Here's a few examples of proper age buffalo. (Unfortunately we dont do bow hunting of buffalo, this is just what you should strife to hunt IMHO.)

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