Over the years, many wrote about hunting and the temperament of the Cape buffalo, but nothing can prepare you for the moment when you finally draw back the string on one, and think, this is it, this is for real!
Our Ranch (Eastern Cape Bow Hunting) is in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa, a malaria-free zone. Apart from the usual plains game species we have on the property, we also have large herds of springbok which are more common to the northern parts of South Africa. We also have Cape buffalo, sable and roan available for hunting.
In June this year, we had a client come out, and he was up for the challenge of stalking and arrowing a Cape buffalo on foot. He was shooting an 80-pound Elite with a total arrow weight of 750 gr. adequate equipment for the job at hand. My colleague (Werner) and I decided to take him out for the hunt together as one can never be too careful while stalking buffalo, so we thought two guns better than one if things went a bit pear-shaped after the arrow hit the bull.
We have three different river systems going through our property, and I knew which one the buffalo bulls preferred to hang out in. We started early in the morning as Buffalo tend to bed down as soon as it starts getting warmer, making them harder to stalk as they like to lie down in the thick bush. We had not walked very far when we heard the unmistakable grunts and lowing of the buffalo. The morning was cold and crisp making this sound seem a lot closer than what it was because when we finally got eyes on the bulls, they were some ways off and in a bad stalking position. We hung around watching them from a distance of about 200 yards for 30 minutes, hoping they would make a move into the river and bush where we would have a better chance of stalking them but alas they all started to lie down and gather some sun, right out in the open.
Time for plan B, we had to skirt around these bulls and continue working our ways upriver to see if we could locate any more buffalo that might be in a better stalking position. We had probably gone 400 yards when we saw a branch move and there appeared a horn covered in mud; a beautiful kudu bull was browsing on some acacia leaves on the other side of the river 50 yards away, what a sight. Since the kudu had not spotted us yet, it gave us some hope that we were walking/stalking right! We silently skirted the feeding kudu bull and I happened to look behind me and low and behold, two buffalo bulls were walking in our direction, having just got a quick glimpse of them through the bush. I wasn’t sure if they were shooters or not but we quickly made haste to get behind some cover along the river. Here the river bank was not so steep and had a gradual slope down to the water. I reckoned this was the place to set up. No sooner were we behind cover did the two bulls break through the bush line, making a beeline to us and coming in hot. I whisper advice and instructions to Bob who is sitting to the right of Werner and me sitting to the right of him, flanking him. The thing with buffalo that makes them so much more tricky to hunt than other species, apart from the fact that they can be aggressive and kill you if your shot placement is not right is that there are no gaps between their ribs (or only very slight gaps at least). Although one may be tempted to take a quartering away shot, do not to do it, as 9/10 your arrow will skid along the rib cage burying itself somewhere into the shoulder flesh, leaving you with a very irate buffalo.
One of the bulls was a shooter and came straight to the water 15 yards in front of us, facing head on to us. I could hear my heart thudding in my ears and literally hear the blood whooshing through my body as the adrenaline levels went sky high. “He’s going to turn now and when he does take him 1/3 of the way up just on the shoulder crease” and turn he did, but every time he only offered quartering on or heavy quartering away shots. His buddy was standing about 25 yards away and not getting a chance to have a go at the water being the less dominant bull. We had been in this tense position for five minutes when I get a whispered warning from Werner that more bulls were approaching us from our left side, oh boy, when it rains it pours! A more dominant bull came rushing to the water and pushed our bull away. “Draw” I hissed. The client drew and I burped the bull (normally other animals will immediately stop for a few seconds on hearing this foreign sound allowing you to make the shot) but our bull just spun around on a dime and immediately faced us. Sweaty hands flicked the safety catch off the rifle in preparation for a potential charge. The bull looked our way for what felt like ages and I could see Bob starting to shake holding the bow at full draw! Finally, he turned and at 20 yards offered us the shot we wanted. “Take him” I hissed. My words weren’t cold and the arrow was on its way burying itself into the engine room of the bull. I could see him lift his opposite leg indicating that the arrow had most likely stopped or broken his opposite shoulder, a good sign. All the buffalo took off crashing into the bush away from us and shortly after we heard the mournful death bellow of the Cape buffalo and knew he was down for good! Back slapping and high fives went all around as we started animatedly discussing the shot.
Our legs were still shaking 30 minutes later while the backup crew arrived to help us load the bull. What a hunt!
If you would like to book an incredible hunt like this or like to know more about an adventure, contact Joe Codd at Frontiers for more information
By: John Ayliff, Eastern Cape Bowhunting Professional Hunter