Dream Cape Buffalo

Posted at 10:14 am on 04/28/2015
Dream Cape Buffalo, 46 in. taken in Tanzania
in the Selous Game Reserve August 28, 2002

It actually started with a seven day Buff Hunt scheduled in Tanzania in the famous Selous Game Reserve. My Hunting Outfitter was Safari Trackers, and my PH was a young Zimbabwean named Zayne Van Der Merwe. At the ripe old age of 24 he had all ready been on kills of well over 70 Buff. 

The day before I shot my Big Boy, on Thursday, we were hunting Buff at a place called Borderline Road. That afternoon we spotted four Buffs crossing the road about 100 yards away moving at a pretty good clip. Now what I didn’t know about borderline road was, on the left-hand side it was considered a buffer zone… AKA meaning that I couldn’t shoot in that area. Leave it to me, hunting in excess of 2.2 million acres in two blocks in the Selous, I find Buffalo in an area I can’t shoot. Taking a fast look at the headgear my PH decided that there was a bigun in there that was worth chasing and turning them around. He wanted to overtake the Buffs and turn them around so I could get a crack at the Big guy in the middle, I thought he was on drugs but went along with the plan anyway.

We were off and running, we ran down one hill, up the other side, sideways for over hundred yards, then up another hill. When we finally glassed the Buffs again we were close; he decided one more dash down the hill and up the other side we would be in front of them. On my next run down the hill I tripped and lost my balance… I literally went ass over teacups and bounced a few times. I tried to protect my custom rifle and took the scope straight into my top rib on my right side with a resounding crack. I put out my right arm to try and break the fall and sprained my right wrist. To top it off I went face first in a freshly burned out area, with fine black powder covering the whole front of my body; I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. I pushed my rifle into my trackers hands and said let’s go. Even though I gave it a valiant try the Buff winded us and took off, we never did flank the buggers. That night was a real turmoil; I was in a lot of pain and couldn’t lie down flat because of the cracked rib. It’s a good thing I was hunting with three doctors, because they had some good painkillers to get me through the next couple of days.

I was up early the next morning, hell I couldn’t sleep anyway, might as well get an early start. We were driving down this path in the bush, you can call it a road if you like but it wasn’t like any road I ever drove on before .  My main Masai tracker in the back Kiunodo yelled to stop. He spied some Buffalo dung in the road, he ran over and did the old finger in the poop test and declared it FRESH. We all piled out of the truck and were off and tracking. The tracking abilities of the Masai are legend and Kiunodo was very good at this game. After about an hour we finally caught up to a herd of about 75 Buffalo in a small basin, they were feeding and moving away from us. I was so excited, I said to myself this is where it all really begins, if I knew then that I would be inside this herd of Buffalo for the next four hours, at over 90 degrees, with no water, I probably would have turned around right then and there and said the hell with it.

Well let me tell you, I thought the day before was bad. Did you ever try crawling on your hands and knees with a cracked rib and sprained wrist, with a ten-pound rifle slung across your back; it just doesn’t work to well. But being the stubborn Italian that I am, I wanted a Buff so bad, nothing short of getting run over by one of these black freight trains was going to stop me.  We crawled for 100 yards on our hands and knees, we climbed anthills, we waded through swampy waters, and we still couldn’t flank the herd to get a shot. I was on the sticks at three different times, and three times I was denied and couldn’t get a shot at the Big Boy. My PH knew there were some real good shooters in the herd but we just couldn’t sort them out.  I have to hand it to him, time and time again he pushed the envelope, sometimes we were so close I could have spit and hit them. Both he and my tracker were constantly checking the wind, throwing up little puffs of dirt to make sure of the direction of the wind. After four hours inside the herd he decided to break it off and backtrack to try and catch up with them from the other side. I was near the end of my endurance; we were about 3 miles deeper in the bush now, all I could think about was a COLD DRINK. On our way around we found a fresh stream to drink from, I wasn’t going to drink the water but my PH assured me it was ok. I not only drank a gallon, but also soaked my head and wet my hat; I was revived and ready to go, for a little while anyway.

We didn’t go far when we caught up with the herd again. I was in luck this time, there were three big bulls making there way up a slight hill away from the herd. The sticks went down fast, they were about 125 yards out and my PH said when the first one gets between the two-crooked tress let him have it. As I started my trigger pull he almost yelled, don’t shoot… shoot the second one. I waited and as the second big bull went between the trees, I fired. The sight picture was immediately burned into my mind. I thought I saw the big boy stumble, but coming out of recoil I wasn’t sure. At the sound of the shot Buffalo erupted from everywhere, you could literally feel the ground shake as they stampeded in all directions. In the confusion we all lost track of the bull. As the dust settled, we saw two big bulls, just standing there in the upper left hand corner of the small field, one big bugger was broadside, he had his head down low to ground, he looked sick, AKA wounded. But he also had a 40 in buddy standing behind him and not leaving his side. I cried out, that’s him let me whack him again. But in reality we didn’t know if that was the Buff I shot at and hit. What did we do,  we waited, we waited for about 10 minutes and still the two Buff didn’t move. Finally my PH said are you ready? I knew exactly what he meant; he fully was expecting a charge. This was something I thought about for many years; never in my wildest dreams did I think I would actually be walking into a wounded Buff on purpose, expecting a charge. Believe me, I said a few fast Hail Mary’s and Our Fathers. He told me to turn down my 1.5 X 5 Leupold all the way and make sure I was fully reloaded with solids. He told Kiounodo to stay behind us, and side by side we started walking slowly toward the two Buff about 80 yards away, my shirt was soaked with sweat, front and back, the adrenaline rush was outstanding to say the least. Zayne was carrying a Kreighoff Double, 500 NE with 575-grain bullets. I was shooting my Custom 416 Rem Mag. with Swift 400 grn Swift A Frames & backed by Barnes Solids.
Drum Roll if you please……….

Now I would like to tell you he charged and at 25 yards and we both fired and killed the beast landing at our feet, but that’s not what happened, thank GOD. When we got to about 50 yards, they turned to the left and ran away, they simply ran away. To say I was stunned would be an understatement; I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Here I traveled over 15000 miles to face Ol Mogobo with a show down and he ran away, all I could think about was man I hope he was hit good.

We walked to the spot where the two Buffalo were standing, looking for blood, any blood, and just one scarlet drop to say YES I was shot. The rule in Africa is if you draw blood, and you don’t find your animal, you still pay the trophy fee anyway. Look as we may we couldn’t find one drop of blood in the long grass. I left my PH’s side and walked over to where the crooked trees were, looking for blood where I thought I first shot, nada, nothing, my heart sank, I was close to despair. I heard Zayne yelling for me to come here, he scolded me for walking away from him when a wounded Buffalo could be near. He then asked me how I felt about the shot, AKA meaning did I think I hit him? I said don’t worry, I KNOW I hit him, I called the shot, I said as I was pulling the trigger he was turning up hill a little to the left. I hit him a little far back from shoulder angling toward the opposite shoulder; it should be at least a double or single lung shot.

WE knew we had to track the two Buff into the next field through the long grass, I remember thinking to myself, man this is a dangerous situation, time for more Hail Mary’s and Our Fathers. Zayne was cool as a cucumber, be careful and be ready he said. Zayne was on my far left, Kioundo was in the middle and I was on the right. We didn’t go more than 50 yards when we heard the loud bellow to my right, here was my Buff, and he was lying down trying to get to his feet no more than 15 yards away. Zayne yelled SHOOT… I swung and shot; I aimed for his spine and shot a little bit to the right and hit him in the ass. I reloaded and put another one through his rib cage, he tried to get up again, and I put another one through his shoulder, he went down and tried to get up again, another one through the rib cadge. Zayne was still yelling shoot, shoot…. So I reloaded and gave him one more for good luck, and finally the death bellow.

Zayne finally ran up to the Buff and did this little dance, he asked me excitedly, and do you know what you shot? I said hell yeah; I shot a Volkswagen Buss with horns on it. No Zayne said, you shot a @#$%^&* Big Buff of at least 45 inches, you could hunt Buff for the next 20 years and you would not shoot one this big!!! In less than an hour I experienced the whole range of emotions, excitement of the shot, the rush of the possible charge, the heart break of the Buff running away, the let down of no blood, the rush of the track again, the jubilation of the kill. Talk about your ups and down’s but isn’t that one of the reasons why we hunt!

It would take us over another hour to hike out to the road, another 45 minutes back to the truck, and another hour back to the Buff to load him up. What started at 8:45 AM that morning finally ended at 6-0-clock PM back at camp that night.

When we got back at camp that night, we found out that our two other hunting partners, my nephew Louis and our buddy Garry both shot nice Buff the same day. It just so happens that it also was Louis’s 45 birthday, We celebrated that night with a great dinner and some fine bottles of red wine, actually it was over 6 bottles, need less to say no one felt any pain that night, even I slept well,…. But  ohhhh did we pay the price the next morning, but hey that’s another story.

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