SOUTH AFRICA: June 2021 Cape Buffalo Hunt With KMG Hunting Safaris

Bill DeHaan

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Awesome hunt and account. You made a great point about a PH’s character, your PH’s character.

Allow me a moment to freshen my drink and then please continue………. ;-)
 

BRICKBURN

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:E Pissed: Just hit reset and keep typing.
 

wlambert

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Good idea on weighing. I will do that prior to trying to fire it again.
Wonderful report so far.

The cartridge that didn’t fire, did you weigh it against another cartridge? I’ve seen a cartridge loaded without powder from the factory. Confirmed by weight and eventually pulling the bullet.
 

wlambert

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Hunting Day 5

We didn't hunt buffalo this day. We had learned the day prior that we wouldn't have access to the same property so we made a plan to travel to a different location and continue plains game hunting for hartebeest. We left before daylight and were awarded with seeing a bat-eared fox. Our first stalk of the day was a long crawl, using sparse vegetation to hide our approach. Unfortunately, we could not get in position for a shot. There were several giraffe in the area and just when we thought we were making progress one would lumber off taking the hartebeest with it.

A little later in the morning we were walking to an area where we thought some hartebeest had moved to and I fell, hard. I am not a small person and I rarely "almost" fall. Once I start a downward decent It's usually a done deal. We were crossing a rocky area and I stepped on a loose one and lost my balance when it shifted under my weight. I fell forward crashing down on my right knee. My knees aren't good to begin with so I had purchased a set of nice knee sleeves/supports for the hunt and the padding of the sleeve helped absorb the impact when knee met rock. As hard as I tried to minimize impact to my rifle the sling slipped off my shoulder and I could not catch it before it fell to the ground. Most of the impact was to the buttstock, but the scope took some also, so off we went again to check zero. Finding some humor in the situation Marius quipped, "At least you are consistent." Luckily the .270 and the Nikon 3x9 also held zero.

Our first stalk of the afternoon was another first for me. We were moving across an area with short, dry vegetation and it was impossible to walk without announcing your arrival well in advance. I knew Marius was a proponent of coming out of your shoes when needed, and I had seen similar approaches among the many hunting videos I have watched. As we came closer to where some hartebeest were bedded, off went the shoes. We closed to within 20-25 yards but did not have a good view of the ram we were after. As we were moving slowly to a better spot, we came face-to-face with a ram we hadn't seen. We were as still as possible as the ram looked us over, but he eventually decided we were a threat and off he went taking our target ram with him.

We began walking back towards where we left the bakkie and saw the first hartebeest of the day. We knew there were rhino in the area and on our way we were able to get a good look through the binos at two adults and calf which were off in a distant valley. Before we reached the bakkie we spotted a lone ram feeding across a large wide-open draw. No issue with seeing this ram well, but that works both ways, so once again we were crawling into position. Marius ranged us at 150 yards and the ram dropped where he stood with the first shot. Again, we watched to make sure he didn't get back up before moving closer. The shot had been a hair high but the ram was going nowhere. He was still clinging to life when we got to him so we put the handgun to use again to avoid unnecessary suffering.

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I'm always on the lookout for things I haven't seen before as we drive from location to location, and this evening it was vervet monkeys. I've seen plenty of vervets, but never this type of behavior. They would run ahead of us on all fours, periodically jumping high into the air while turning back to see if we were gaining on them. I wish I could be as funny in describing it as it was to see.
 

C.W. Richter

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Did I miss something? Where's the buffalo?
 

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Great read thus far do you have a photo of the buffalo in the mudbath?
 

wlambert

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Great read thus far do you have a photo of the buffalo in the mudbath?
Unfortunately, no. I couldn't have gotten a good picture from where I was, but didn't even think about it in the moment. After we got back to the bakkie Marius said the same thing, "I should have taken a picture of that bull."
 

wlambert

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Hunting Day 6 (Buffalo Day 3)

Our Safari was half-over and while I had taken three nice animals; still no buffalo. Marius had arranged for us to hunt a new location with the hope of better luck. This was also a camp he had not previously hunted buffalo on but he was hearing good things about the buffalo in the area. It was a couple of hours away so we would have to pack a go-bag and overnight there. We would not have staff support as they were off for a RSA holiday, but Marius' wife had taken a few days off to visit with us and graciously went along to make sure we were well-fed while away. We had the good fortune to spend time with both of the Goosen's in 2018 and my daughter and I had kept up with them through social media. My daughter decided to maximize "girls time" together so she was sleeping in and riding to the camp with Marius' better half.

The rest of us left not long after 5:00 AM and headed to our "Plan B". Driving along one of the highways or "tar roads" we met a small/compact car with significant damage to the front end. It had been headed in the opposite direction but didn't appear to be operational now. A couple of hundred yards later we had to slow for a herd of donkeys that were foraging at the side of the highway. Soon enough we passed a dead donkey splayed across the shoulder and outside lane. Now we knew what happened to that car.

Before lunch we hiked to two different vantage points to glass and were seeing buffalo. This property was not as big as the first we hunted but still enormous. We got in one good stalk but the buffalo we were targeting had laid down. Marius did not feel we could get into a position to confirm a good bull without disturbing them so we backed out and decided to come back in the early evening when the buffalo were up again. Up to that point we had seen a group and a few lone bulls so we were excited at the prospects of this new area.

After lunch we repeated our stalk from the morning but the wind had shifted. Not uncommon as we had fought the swirling winds all week. We revised our approach and got into position to allow the bulls to feed to us. There was a group headed in our direction, and one bull looked nice and hard, but they were moving slowly and we ran out of light for the day.


Hunting Day 7 (Buffalo Day 4)

First thing, we were able to catch up with the group from the night before but the good bull was no longer with them. We began our search again. Just before lunch we made another stalk on a bull that was part of a separate group. We didn't make it far when a cow sniffed us out and took the group away.

After lunch we had two great stalks. For the first we were able to utilize a craggy wash-out with deep recesses that at times allowed us to approach upright but completely hidden. We were able to get into position having crawled into one of the more shallow parts of the wash-out and within 25-30 yards of feeding buffalo. The plan worked perfectly and all we had to do was wait until the hard bull stepped out from behind some thick bush and presented a shot. There was a female in full view closest to us, but she was facing away and had not sensed us at all so Marius had me raise up and get on the sticks. Moments later, the cow did an about face and stared right at me. Marius whispered not to move and I didn't for what seemed like an eternity. We thought the cow might decide we weren't of interest, but that wasn't the case. Although we were still and we didn't notice a wind change, she let out a snort and headed away. The target bull stepped out for the shortest of moments, not long enough for Marius to confirm he was hard enough, and then he disappeared with the rest.

The group only went a few hundred yards so we decided to flank them and see what happened. We got to a spot where we thought they would feed through and waited. There was a short, wide clump of trees and bushes about 40 yards from where I was set up on the sticks. The best possible scenario was for the group to pass along the opposite side of that tree which would give us a few seconds of extra cover. Didn't happen. A single cow wandered in between that tree and my location, ending up about 15 feet away. While it was exciting to be that close to a buffalo, it didn't end well. I was in her personal space and it didn't take long for her to notice. She stared at me for a few minutes and bounded off. The rest of the group followed - on the other side of the tree! All we needed was an ounce of luck and couldn't buy any. We never got another opportunity and the day's hunt ended.

Prior to choosing to this particular property, Marius had contacted a camp where he had hunted buffalo many times but it was not available. He got a call earlier this day that we would be able to hunt there, if needed, after all. We made the decision to stay the night at our current "Plan B" camp and move to "Plan C" camp early in the morning.
 

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Hunting Day 8 (Buffalo Day 5)

Another early morning and we were on the road well before daylight. The hunting today would be much different than the days prior. It was similar in size to the second property, but the layout would require us to cover more of it on foot than we had any of the previous days. In addition, the changes in elevation from one point to the next were significant. Our stalks would consist of venturing down into deep valleys or up the side of steep mountains once a bull to our liking was spotted. By this time I was beginning to feel the fatigue of a week's worth of hard hunting. Although I had spent significant time in the gym leading up to the trip I still should have been in better shape and now I was paying for it. We had one good morning stalk, but but pulled back as the wind was not right and eventually the buffalo laid down for the afternoon.

Our last stalk of the day got us to within 100 yards and we would discuss later whether or not we should have attempted a shot from that distance as we had what we thought was a good bull broadside. I had practiced with my rifle out to 70 yards and since this group of buffalo was continuing to move in our direction we decided to wait it out. We were having no luck with the wind this day, and once again it turned against us. We moved to counter and waited some more, but the buffalo did not come our way as expected and the day was done.


Hunting Day 9 (Buffalo Day 6)

Another early start and a significant amount of walking. We were continuing to see buffalo but our luck was getting no better. We continually fought the wind and could not get a break. On what was probably our most promising stalk of the day we were moving down through a valley and I ended up with both feet on a wet, smooth rock. Down I went flat on my back as both feet went out from under me. Luckily I wasn't hurt and was able to hold my rifle tight to my chest so no zeroing was needed. We continued on and into position and kneeled to avoid detection. I was now carrying my rifle with the sling gathered into my fist. As I shifted to get more comfortable I let the sling slip through my fingers; one of the buckles clanking against the stock. Not long after that the group trotted away. No idea if that noise was the culprit but it certainly could have been.

Today was COVID testing day so we left around 11:30 AM and drove to East London for my daughter and I to be violated once more. Afterwards we stopped at a drive-in style diner for a grilled bacon and cheese. Marius had said they put a pound of bacon on them and it wasn't much of an exaggeration. Then we drove to one of the jewels of the Eastern Cape - Friesland Milk Bar. If you have not had a Friesland milkshake it may very well be worth a trip to South Africa just to get one.

The timing was perfect as we arrived back for our evening session just about the time the buffalo were awakening from their siestas. We worked hard all afternoon and covered some rough ground. On one attempt to get in position for a stalk we crossed a dry riverbed that was lined with tall grass between the bed and a steep bank. We were moving quickly through the grass when I stepped in a hole that I couldn't see and went down for the third time. In doing so I felt and heard the wet crunching that accompanies a stretched ligament, aka a sprained ankle. On the way down I was able to lay my rifle in the long grass so no worries with zero, but my ankle was screaming. I stood up and determined I could bear weight so I continued on. We climbed the steep bank and up the opposite hillside. Towards the end of the day we sat atop one of our glassing spots and saw five bushbuck - three males sparring each other as two females looked on. I had never seen that many at one time.

During our drive home a huge kudu jumped out of the bush and across the "dust" road just ahead of us, missing the front of the bakkie by a few yards. When we got back to camp I examined my trophy for the day. My right ankle was swollen, but helped by the fact that I keep my laces tight. A black and blue bruise ran the length of the outside of my foot from ball to heel. It looked nasty but I could walk on it so I didn't mention it to anyone. As a matter of fact, we were on our way home when I showed this picture to my daughter. It was taken the next night at the conclusion of Day 10 and about 30 hours after the fact. Interesting (and maybe gross) that walking on it for a day and a half had pushed the bruising into my toes. Turn away now if ugly feet make you squeamish!



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gillettehunter

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I can tell that your getting some good stalks in. Can't believe your luck is that bad. Hope the last day goes better.
Bruce
 

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That would be really concerning. I caught my hand in front of a pressure washer 2 days before one of my safaris. I couldn’t make a fist the day of the infection was so bad. I went to the urgent care and got some strong antibiotics and went anyway. Thankfully they worked.
 

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Hunting Day 10 (Buffalo Day 7)

I refused to call it our last day, instead calling it Day 1...of the rest of our safari. After all, today was as good a day as any to kill a buffalo. Marius and I had talked for a couple of days how close we had come and that we just needed some luck. Marius was certain there was some type of voodoo that had been cast upon us, but neither of us had given up. We would continue to hunt as hard as we could and take what Africa gave us - "Do our best and bugger the rest." One more very early wake-up, one more drive in to camp before daylight.

We had a couple of good stalks early, one that carried us up the side of the steepest mountain adjoining the property. A couple of lone bulls had wandered up among some thick aloes and we were sure we would get on them for a shot. I was still favoring my right ankle, but did reasonably well on the ascent. My bigger problem was how thick the vegetation was. While Marius was slipping through with ease my big frame was scraping everything. We had a tracker on radio at the bottom of the mountainside and before we could find the bulls he radioed to say they had moved even higher. Perhaps I was making too much noise, it's hard to say, but we weren't going to catch them so we climbed back down and drove to another spot trying to get ahead of them. This time we would take a different approach. We stayed in the road and Marius sent the tracker up to circle around behind the bulls who had settled in another area of extremely thick bush. The goal was to have the tracker push them towards us. The tracker descended making all manner of noise and the bulls would absolutely not budge. Amazing that our slinking around caused them to flee and the tracker's antics did nothing. It was as though they clearly knew who was the threat and who wasn't.

We took a long rest at lunch and then Marius and the trackers glassed like fiends. Once the buffalo were moving again, a group was spotted walking back towards an open area where we had seen buffalo grazing two evenings ago. We decided our last chance was to stalk down through the valley and up to the edge of the clearing to wait for them to feed through. If we were lucky they would hit the opening before dark. We got into position, found a group of bushes that would provide the right cover, and waited. My daughter and the trackers had stayed behind and were a great distance away and above us watching the group's movement. We occasionally checked in by radio and the group was moving slowly. At one point they laid down for the second time that day, but got back up shortly after. However, they were happy to linger where they were.

We were now down to the last hour of daylight. I had already found peace with the fact that I would probably be going home without a buffalo, but happy with the effort we had put in. I said a final prayer that the good Lord would bless us and waited some more. With the sun lowering in the sky, we got a radio call that a few bulls had broken from the rest and were approaching the clearing. Marius and I had already discussed the shot multiple times. We were about 80 yards from from a stand of aloes and the buffalo would likely walk along beside them as they approached. Marius told me to get on the sticks and get ready.

As the bulls came across, one was clearly the target. As Marius looked them over through the binos and I through my scope we discussed the "right" bull to make sure we were talking about the same hard-bossed bull. "Second in line, now third, now second again with a smaller bull behind it, now in the lead and clear of the others." Marius then told me to take the shot, I clarified "take the shot?" Marius said take him. I had taken the shot a thousand times in my head - up the leg to where it meets the body, then up some more to the middle of that next muscle group. Marius had warned me over and over not to let the mass of the bull's shoulder cause me to shoot too high and I wasn't about to do it now.

I squeezed off the shot and the big bull recoiled as he absorbed the 400 grain A-frame into his lower shoulder. The whole bachelor group then slammed into the aloes and out of sight in a literal cloud of dust. Marius said the bull's reaction looked good and asked how the shot felt - it felt good. Marius then let me know I was bleeding. I had trained myself to stay at the back of the eye relief but forgot all of that in the moment and the bell of my scope had placed a very slight half-moon-shaped mark above my eyebrow. Marius said that wasn't a bad thing as it meant I stayed down on the shot.

We waited and listened for the death bellow which didn't come. They don't always bellow, but usually do, so this was warning sign one. Marius then went to get the dogs and put them on the track. He said that one of the dogs usually doesn't bark if the animal is dead. The dogs hung up just out of sight and the one was barking his head off. Warning sign two. By now one of the trackers had joined us and we ventured into the aloes, slowly and carefully. Marius was in the lead and off to my right. He was 10-15 yards into the aloes when he called me over. As I approached where he was I could see the bull lying motionless. Marius collected the dogs and instructed me to place another shot into the spine, just ahead of the shoulders (it's the dead ones that kill you). I pumped another round in but the bull was already gone. After taking a few pictures where he fell, the tractor arrived and we loaded him onto a platform to get him out. Once back in the clearing we offloaded him for more pictures, then reloaded to get him to the skinning shed. One of the hardest hunts I had ever taken part in had come down to the closing minutes of the last day, and it was all worth it.

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Mort Hill

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Congrats on a wonderful safari, and for getting “your” bull. Well worth the wait, injury and all!
 

Frederik

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Well done I have experienced this buffalo voodo luck myself a few times. It's easy to hunt a buffalo but not as easy to hunt THE buffalo.
 

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