Late Season non-trophy buffalo hunt.
Covid 19. Corona, the Chinese Virus.... Call it what you will, no doubt it has taken a toll on all our lives and respective industries. The safari business has been particularly hard hit. Valuable income has been denied hard pressed anti-poaching efforts and desperate land owners. The majority of hunts this year, 2020, have been postponed to 2021. It was looking to be a particularly bleak year sans buffalo, when a good friend, Brian, phoned me up and decided we were to hunt that dagga boy we had always talked about. With prices at an all time low and operators eager for any income, it was the perfect time and opportunity for us to 'pull the trigger' on this long time dreamt about adventure. A few phone calls later and we were on for a non-trophy (under 35 inches) buffalo bull in the BVC for mid September!
So now to preparation - Brian has a trusty .375 that has been in the family forever and with which his old man has killed a number of buffalo. This family heirloom was to be the weapon of choice. Brian is a crack shot and a brief training trip to the range proved that Brian was as accurate as ever, printing a tight group in the bullseye at 100 metres with his Winchester model 70 and Barnes 300 grain TSX's. We were ready set...!
After a long and eventful trip, we rolled into Dyers camp with the hunting entourage. For this trip Brian had invited his long time hunting buddies Cu, Stevie and Bushy. It would prove to be a laugh a minute with this gang, and they provided endless humour. Added to that, Cu and Bushy captured some great footage of our buffalo hunting escapades. We had arrived in camp in good time, allowing us ample opportunity to zero and check the weapons in the near by river bed. We were hardly a kilometre from camp when we bumped into a group of 15 dagga boys coming out of the river bed we had planned to use as our impromtu range. What a sight! It whet the appetite for what I had promised the gang would be a great adventure. I wasn't wrong as it turned out.
The next morning found us on the tracks of two dagga boys before 8 o'clock in the morning. The tracks were a few hours old, from the evening before. With the number of buffalo on the BVC I was starting to question if maybe I should have found a fresher set of tracks. I needn't have worried. My trackers assured me we would catch them before long and they were proven right. We were heads down following the tracks that lead to a large termite mound. As we rounded the obstacle both trackers starting backtracking like they had seen a Mamba! There, not 20 yards from us, were both dagga boys, oblivious to our presence as they fed away from us. One of the pair was a definite non-trophy, but I was reluctant to conclude the hunt on the first morning of day one. There are so many buffalo on this concession and so much hunting to be had, that I assured the gang that we need to pass on the bull. What a great start to the first morning and it set the tone for the safari.
That afternoon found us at a large dam scouting out the reed beds fringing the water. With the drought and lack of grazing I played a hunch and told the crew that I believed we would see a lot of action in these reeds, which was the only source of greenery for miles around. My hunch proved correct and we very quickily found two old dagga boys head down in the reeds grazing away contently. The cover and wind were perfect and we managed to get to 13 yards away from the duo as they fed across us. The heads on display were not very attractive, despite both animals being old, and we turned them down. But what an experience. Two dagga boys unaware to our presence at 13 yards. This is what the BVC is famous for - quality buffalo hunting.
The next few days were a repeat of the first, getting in close to multiple groups of dagga boys looking for a lovely non-trophy bull that had what we were after - hard boss, a bit of shape and most importantly wear and tear that indicated he was an old animal with character. Every day we would tally the number of groups of dagga boys we were seeing (we didn't even bother with the herds) and we were averaging 8 different groups of bulls daily. Truly, thats some of the finest buffalo hunting on offer anywhere in Africa today. It took a lot of will power to not shoot too early and conclude the hunt; we wanted to draw out this wonderful experience as long as we could.
The morning of day 4 found us back at the dam that had been so productive in previous visits. As we crossed the dam wall, one of the trackers tapped the roof and said 'Nyati!'. We coasted to a stop and made ready. The trackers had seen a single dagga boy sleeping under a bush and by all accounts he was oblivious to our presence. With Brian right on my six, and Cu and Bushy following a short distance behind him, we slipped into the brush. A buffalo is a 1600lb animal, but it never fails to amaze me at how adept they are at hiding behind the smallest bush. This was no different and it took a few moments to find him in the binos. However when we did, it became apparent that this dagga boy had what we were looking for. Now it was just a matter of getting close into him for the shot. Up until now we had been closing the distance on other buffalo to 13, 20, 25 yards. I was hoping we were going to be able to give Brian an experience at 'bayonet range' so to speak, but try as I might I could not get closer than 40 yards on this bull; there was an open patch between us and we had run out of cover. Furthermore the buffalo had become suspicious and he stood up to face the threat at a quartering angle. Brian glided smoothly into a shooting position on the shooting sticks and in what seemed an age finally squeezed the trigger on the old boy. Unbeknown to me there was some brush interfering with his shot, and the age he took was him skillfully threading the bullet through a gap. At the report the animal hunched hard and it was evident he was mortally struck by a very accurate shot. He staggered off stage left favouring a leg and we lost sight of him behind the bush that he had been sleeping under only moments before. But the old boy did not make it 8 metres from where he had received the 300 grain Barne TSX, and we found him death bellowing his last. An obligatory insurance shot concluded the matter.
At the time of writing this, Brian is already planning his next buffalo hunt with me with the family .470 double! The buffalo hunting fever has him hooked!