Showdown with a dagga boy
I met Rob a few years ago at the shows, through that hunting legend John Sharp. John is a good family friend of mine and Rob had hunted three times with him in Zimbabwe. Rob was now looking for fresh excitement further afield. He had his heart set on a Niassa Wildebeest and decided he had to hunt Niassa and see what I was continually raving about. Excited planning, a few calls and emails back and forth, and soon there was a buffalo added to the mix!
Rob and I planned to hunt August '23, and before long we were meeting up at Africa Sky guest lodge enjoying their wonderful hospitality. The next day we journeyed onwards to Pemba and caught a charter west to my hunting area. On the 2 hr drive to camp we came across two dagga boys asleep a hundred metres off the road. One was a real beauty. I mentioned this to Rob and made a mental note to return to this spot to cut their tracks. The next day saw us checking zero on Rob's weapons and scouting for tracks closer to camp. We tracked 4 dagga boys the first day but I determined there was nothing in the group that interested us.
Day 2 saw us back in the area where we had seen the two dagga boys on the drive in. Bilale, my number one tracker of 18 years, came hurrying back. He had found tracks from two bulls. It had to be them. Water packed, hunting belts fastened and rounds chambered - we were off. It was around mid morning and the wind was already swirling. To complicate matters the tracks were heading for a large inselberg (large rocky outcropping); I knew the wind played all sorts of funny games around these and as if the trackers were reading my mind, they started testing the wind. We threaded our way through riverine bush along the banks of the Lugenda river, the bulls meandering their way to and fro looking for grazing. We approached the inselberg and at the base of it was thick, tall grass. Despite our best efforts, it was noisy slipping our way through the rank, tall stems. The swirling wind momentarily parted the tall grass and a hundred metres away I glimpsed a dark grey object in a sea of khaki. It was a dagga boy with his head down feeding along the edge of the outcrop. The rocks formed a natural amphitheatre and very quickly I realised we had this bull cornered in this rocky redoubt. I hurriedly searched for the second bull but I just could not make him out in the grass and undergrowth. I still had not seen the head gear on the bull in front of us and we impatiently waited for him to pause from his grazing and lift his head. I could see his face was grey, his bosses were rock solid and he had that lovely 'roman nose' and dewlap that make a dagga boy what he is - a truly special, old animal. Eventually he fed towards us slightly and gave me a look at his spread. "Rob, shoot that bull when he turns broadside!" I whispered urgently. The buffalo started walking away casually and I grunted at him to stop him. Rob did not delay, his first shot with his .416 was expertly placed and the buffalo sagged to its knees. It was temporary however, and it was back up and moving in a split second. Rob has shot his fair share of buffalo and knew the deal - if you can see him, keep putting lead in it! The second was a little further back, but still a killing shot. The inselberg blocked its flight and by this stage the bull had its head up looking for us. For those of you who have been on the receiving end of a wounded buffalo will know what I am talking about - that bull saw us and focused on us with intent. And this is where I have to give credit to Rob and his marksmanship skills. The buffalo turned towards us and started its charge but Rob put it down with two very well placed shots, one of which was just under the chin, severing the spine and dropping the bull in its tracks. It was over in the proverbial blink of an eye. It always amazes me how quickly these things happen. We circled around the bull and Rob 'paid the insurance' through the shoulder blades. Interestingly we never saw the other bull and Rob and I wondered about this until further investigation revealed we had just bumped into this solitary old boy whilst we were tracking the original pair. Rob and I went on to have a lovely safari, taking an excellent Niassa Wildebeest, a Hyena in daylight and a super Reedbuck. But it was that characterful old dagga boy that was combative until the end that was the highlight for me. It was a wonderful bull in a wonderful area with wonderful company. It doesn't get much better than that does it?