Hunting for Cape Buffalo
Hunting for Cape Buffalo with East Cape Safaris in South Africa, 50 miles from Somerset East, with 2 professional hunters (PHs), a tracker, a skinner and me.
The karoo opened up to a grassy valley with high ridges, dense with thorny thick brush. While scouting for buffalo, the PH quietly said …”stop, do not move, do not make any noise…” In front of us at 50 yards stood two white rhinos. Even though we stayed silently in place, the rhinos picked up our location and walked toward us. After several minutes, they just walked away. After scouting the valley for two hours and seeing no fresh signs or tracks, we decided to go to a higher point and start glassing.
In our bakkie, pickup truck, we slowly ascended to the ridge’s rim through scrub brush and a rutted trail laden with rocks to a summit above the valley.
After several hours at this vantage point, a bachelor herd of bulls, “dugga boys”, was spotted several hundred yards away in dense valley brush. We decided to pursue them. The strategy was to stay downwind of the herd, going along the high ridge then cross over the valley floor, out of the herd’s sight and scent. We ascended the opposing ridge, closing our range.
We left our skinner with the bakkie to use his binoculars and walkie-talkie, advising our PH of the herd’ movement and if he thought the herd was aware of us.
The Stalk for Cape Buffalo
Then the stalk began as we moved along the ridge a couple hundred yards. This was on relatively level ground, but through tough thorny brush. Our stalk sloped downward to the valley floor, noisy with loose rocks and not much to hold on to stabilize our walk.
Finally we crossed the valley floor, keeping out of the herd’s line of sight. We climbed the far ridge with even more rocks and thicker brush. It was more difficult since we were moving in a semi-crouched position, keeping our heads up. Every couple minutes, the PH kept “puffing”, using his wind checker to make sure the wind’s direction had not changed. During this period, our skinner stayed in good communication, updating only if there was a change in the dugga boys’ location.
Once on top of the ridge, we pulled back 100 yards to prevent the dugga boys from detecting us. Then we again stalked. For a long hour we moved in a fully crouched position making as little noise, and as close to the ground as possible.
Our skinner transmitted that the bachelor herd seemed unaware of our movement.
Then, for what seemed to take forever, we crawled on our hands and knees through the thorny thicket, until the PH looked back at me and held up his fist to halt movement.
Sighted the Dugga Boys
He whispered to me there were 3 Dugga Boys in the thicket 100 yards ahead of us at the ridge’s base.
He asked that I crawl along beside him, to stay as low as possible and make no noise. As we advanced, he whispered “could I see the buffalo?” I whispered in response that I did not see any of the buffalo. We advanced further and the PH asked if I could see that black area in the thicket about 65 yards ahead. At that point, I saw the back of one buffalo lying in the thicket, but still did not see the other two.
The PH said we could gain a better position if we moved closer where a thickening of the brush provided cover. There he set up his shooting sticks and told me to now chamber the round, but it on safety and wait to see his size.
First Close-Up of Cape Buffalo
By just seeing the breadth and length of his back, we knew he would be a quality Cape Buffalo. As time dragged by slowly, I kept quietly adjusting my feet to get more sturdy footing. At one point I felt someone trying to lift up the heel of my boot. I looked down and saw the PH putting a flatter rock under my foot to improve my footing. I’ve now been on the sticks for about 20 minutes, just waiting for the buffalo to move and show himself. And then…he rolled over. I saw his boss and horns. He is impressive.
My Cough Alerts Dugga Boys
Another 10 minutes slowly drags by. I start to get a raspy feeling in my throat like I have to cough. I held my breath to stop the cough. That didn’t work. When I felt the cough coming, I put my left hand over my mouth trying to muzzle the sound and kept the rifle on the sticks, ready to release the safety with my right hand. When I started coughing, the Cape Buffalo was 39 yards away from me.
Then the Dugga Boy heard me. He slowly arose – what a massive bull – and started toward me. I heard the PH say “…Shoot! Shoot!” With the buffalo in my sights and both hands on the rifle, I fired my REM MAG 416 with a 400 GR DGX (flat nose expanding) bullet, 2240 fps, taking him with a frontal one-shot kill, hitting the heart. With the thrill of the hunt and adrenaline rushing, I never felt the kick of the rifle.
The bull lurched toward us then veered to the right, crashing through the thicket. At that same time, the two other Dugga Boys took off, crashing through the thicket. The PHs bolted, following the bull in the direction he had charged. After reloading, I followed them. Shortly, they told me the buffalo was down in the thicket, about 35 yards down the ridge; to wait quietly before going down.
Mock Charge of the Dugga Boys
We spotted the other Dugga Boys from the bachelor herd about 100 yards away in the valley. On two separate occasions, they mock charged toward our direction, loudly snorting and stomping. After the second charge, they moved on, disappearing into the valley’s taller grass.
After 10 minutes, a bellow sounded from the area where the buffalo lay. We waiting an additional 20 minutes, them made our way down through the thorns and thicket.
There he was…..a massive Dugga Boy. his right horn was not visible since it had rammed into the ground when he fell. All I could say was “Wow”. At first gance, the PHs said his size was a record. Later with his enormous boss, he measured at 44 3/16, a near record for that area.