SOUTH AFRICA: BOWHUNT: Black Death With A String & A Sharp Stick


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Dec 15, 2012
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"Black Death with a string and a sharp stick". That's the description I heard or read somewhere along the way for bow hunting a cape buffalo with a bow and arrow. I thought I would share my story just as a bit of entertainment and a little education.
I was hunting with Blackthorn Safaris in the Free State area of South Africa, as I mentioned in my previous post. What I didn't mention is the story of how I got "our" buffalo with a bow and arrow.

I explained to my PH that I wanted to "walk, glass, sneak, peak, stalk, crawl, and shoot an old hard buffalo with character and an attitude."

This was my second buffalo hunt with a bow. I killed a nice, hard, free range buffalo in Zambia in the past. But I didn't like the way I did it. I shot from the back of a truck. I made a terrible, terrible shot, just got lucky enough to hit a major artery way back on the animal. He only went 20 yards and laid down. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with hunting from the truck, but it just didn't feel like a "real hunt" for me. And, I made such a horrible shot that it left a bad taste in my mouth. I was determined not to repeat. I wanted to hunt "my way" this time around. Alex Goss with Blackthorn Safaris set me up with the perfect PH. He listened and we made a plan.

The very first morning of the hunt we parked at the base of a mountain and set out on foot. We kept the wind in our faces and took every step as if an animal was just over the next rise. We climbed to the first plateau and glassed. Then the second, third, and fourth. As we stair stepped up the mountain we saw waterbuck, impala, and wildebeest off in the distance, but no buffalo. On the fifth and top plateau we encountered huge boulders, loose rocks, clumped grass, broom bush, and small shrubs. We were on top of the world with spectacular views all around us. Vella, my PH, was leading the way and stepped quietly around a shrub and froze like a statue. I followed suit. Although I couldn't see anything but Vella's backside, I understood he'd seen something. We stood crouched and frozen for several minutes until Vella slowly lowered to my level. He mouthed "big bull"! There was excitement and surprise in his words and on his face. I was shocked. I thought we'd climb to this area to glass, not to actually find a buffalo. I even asked him if he was sure. That drew a little grimace from him. Of course he was sure, this is what he'd been doing since he was a boy. I asked quietly, "is he a shooter"? "Absolutely" came the reply. So with the wind in our face and a clump of bushes between us and the buffalo, we approached as silently as possible. We got to within 30 yards of the buffalo fairly easily as he was grazing facing straight away and straight into the wind. I readied for the draw and shot. All he had to do was turn! turn! Well he didn't. Instead, he took two huge steps and plopped down behind a broom bush and went to sleep. All we could see was the outline of his back and rear quarter. So we quietly moved to a large flat boulder that was 28 yards away and waited. Then we waited some more and more. We stood for 2 hours, literally two hours! I was shifting weight from one leg to the other, the bow from one hand to the other, kneeling to standing. It was all I could do not to reach down and throw a rock at him. After 2 hours of constant watching, we saw his tail swish, and he stood. On either side of the bush he was lying beside there was about a 2 foot window for a shot. So I came to full draw thinking that if he stepped either way I needed to be ready. Of course he didn't step at all. I held the full draw as long as I could and was forced to let down. About 15 seconds after I let down, he took the perfect step to my right. I again went to full draw and lined up the shot: 1/3 up directly in line with the back of his front leg. This was the only area of his body I could see. The rump was still behind the bush and his head was behind the clump of brush. I went through my pre-shot routine and let the arrow fly. That 800 grain arrow looked like a spear arcing through the air. Perfect double lung shot. Then the strangest thing happened. The bull turned and looked right at me. He then looked to his right, then looked at me again. How do I know he was looking at me and not at the PH standing 3 feet away from me? I just know. I quickly knocked another arrow. That may have been a mistake, I don't know. Maybe that's what caused him to react. The bull snorted and blew blood out his nostrils and charged. Remember he was only 28 yards away. We were surrounded by boulders, loose rock, and scrub bushes. I remember the buffalo lowering his head as I let the second arrow fly. It buried about half way into his chest and the bull just crumbled dead 9 feet away with my arrow still sticking out of his chest. I looked at my bow and thought, "damn" that was a great shot. At that exact instant, I saw a silver flash go across my field of view. As I followed it to the ground, I recognized it as a spent rifle cartridge. I then looked at the PH and at the cartridge and back at the PH. He had shot at the exact moment I had released my arrow. I had been so focused that I hadn't heard his shot and he had no idea that I had shot. But there was "our" bull exactly 9 feet away, dead with two arrows in his chest and one 0.416 Rigby slug dead center between his eyes.

We both stood there amazed, in disbelief, and shaking. That bull made a choice not to run away, but instead was going to take me out before he expired. I've read, watched videos, and now have seen first hand why they are called "Black Death." After the animal was processed, the PH brought me the arrows and indicated the first shot was a true double lung shot and the second shot sliced his heart. Like the great PH that he is, he said that I had killed the bull. I nodded and said, "But, you stopped him". The meaning was clear and mutually understood. See the picture: the bullet hole and the arrow are both seen. Thank you Vella!

(Maybe that shooting from the truck thing is not so bad after all.)

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Wow thanks for sharing and what a great bill and better story.
And that, my friends, is why you don’t carry a knife to a gunfight.

JK. Sounds like you made perfect shots, and thankfully, so did your PH. From a fellow bow hunter. Haven’t taken my bow to Africa yet though.
Nice shooting. Sounds like you set yourself up for success. Thanks for sharing.
Lifetime memories!
Dang. That’s a hunting story, glad it worked out in the end.
Congrats on a great hunt and buffalo. That type of experience is what we are all looking for when we decide to hunt dangerous game. Great stalk, getting close, making good shots and everybody coming home safely. Job well done.
Congrats to you both !
Awesome story thanks for sharing!

I know Vella to be a good shot, luckily that hasn't changed!

Congratulations on multiple accounts!
Well done!!! Good on you for putting that second arrow in when the moment of truth came! One tends to learn a few things about yourself in a moment like that!

If the buff bug didn't bite hard enough the first time I reckon it left some marks this time!!!
Well done!!! Good on you for putting that second arrow in when the moment of truth came! One tends to learn a few things about yourself in a moment like that!

If the buff bug didn't bite hard enough the first time I reckon it left some marks this time!!!
The bug is real! I am already planning another hunt with Blackthorn.
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Maybe you could share some more information about Blackthorn-accommodations, other game seen/taken etc. That is a fairly new name here and deserves more details
Maybe you could share some more information about Blackthorn-accommodations, other game seen/taken etc. That is a fairly new name here and deserves more details
I hunted with David on this trip and everything about it was first class. The chef provided us with the best food I've had anywhere and was great to be with as well. Animals were in the yard everyday eating the grass in the lawn. Laundry and accommodations were perfect as were the vehicles and game scouts. In short it was as close to a perfect trip as I've been on and I've been lucky enough to hunt all over the world. Here are a few pictures to give you an idea of what you'll get with Alex and his staff. By the way, Alex hunts all over Africa if you are looking for a totally free range hunt. On this trip we hunted buffalo, Sable, Eland, Black Wildebeest, Springbok, Warthog, Nyala and Waterbuck. Best place I've been to for Buffalo and Sable.

awesome report and thanks for sharing. hell of an experience!!
That was a great experience, congrats !

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