One of the reasons this extra experience was important to me was that I was also testing a bullet for Barnes Bullets. For some years, the heaviest bullet Barnes made for the .375 was the 300-grain Triple-Shock. A chance conversation with Jessica Brooks, whose family owns Barnes Bullets, revealed that they were considering bringing out a 350-grain TSX. Figuring this heavier bullet would be just the ticket to use on Asian buffalo, I quickly made arrangements to get some samples in time for my hunt.
While this was my first experience hunting Asian buffalo, I knew they had thick hides and were quite tough. I wanted a bullet that would drive deeply, one capable of breaking the big shoulder bones of a buffalo bull. Our 350-grain TSX bullets were loaded in Remington cases over Ram Shot’s Big Game powder. This produced an average velocity of just more than 2300 fps at the muzzle. During my tests, this load produced three-shot groups that ran from slightly less than an inch to 1.25 inches.
Il Ling and I took eight head of Asian buffalo using the 350-grain Barnes bullets in our .375 H&H rifles. In one case, Il Ling made a one-shot kill on a buffalo at approximately 270 yards. Every one of the recovered bullets showed classic expansion, with the petals of the hollow point peeled back completely. And there was not a single case of any of the bullet petals breaking off. This is an excellent commentary on the amount of design and engineering Barnes puts into its bullet manufacturing. Of course, in some instances our bullets exited the animals and were not recovered. Clearly, the 350-grain TSX delivers the best of both worlds, penetration and expansion.
On this Australian buffalo hunt I also was using one of my favorite rifles, a Ruger No. 1 Tropical in .375 H&H Magnum, topped off with the Leupold 1.5X-5X scope. In addition, I was using a sling and ammo pouch manufactured by Murray Custom Leather (www.murraycustom leather.com). Now a single-shot rifle might seem like a poor choice for taking animals that can fight back; however, I have done a good bit of hunting with various Ruger No. 1 rifles over the years, and have always been pleased with their accuracy. In addition, I spent quite a bit of time practicing reloading from the open-topped Murray ammo carrier. Keeping your eye on the game is especially important when hunting buffalo, so a bit of practice never hurts.
One afternoon, Simon Kyle-Little led us into the thick brush. A couple of times we got on fresh tracks but the wind was against us. About all we heard was the sound of large animals leaving our immediate vicinity. However, finally, with the wind in our faces, we stalked into sight of a herd of buffalo cows. I was preparing to take one when a bull stepped out of the brush to join the ladies. This was a big, old bull, weighing some 1,600 pounds and sporting gnarly old horns that clearly indicated he was a fighter.
Using the available brush for concealment, Simon and I began the stalk. Unfortunately, the old bull spotted us. Not knowing what we were, for sure, he began trotting toward thick brush that surrounded a nearby swamp. Just before he entered the brush, at about 50 yards, I put a 350-grain Barnes into his left shoulder, breaking his leg.
I reloaded on the run as Simon and I closed in to give a finishing shot. With the bull’s rump toward me, I tried for a shot at the base of its tail hoping to break its spine. You might say I miscalculated just a bit. Nonetheless, my bullet broke the bull’s left hip instead, and he went down for the count. By the tape measure, this would not have qualified as a trophy bull, but I was quite pleased to collect an old fighter while he was at the top if his game.
Ever mindful of the fact that Asian buffalo can hurt you if you get careless, and conscious of the fact that I was using a single-shot rifle, I had previously had a serious conversation with Simon. I told him I was conscious of the fact that I was hunting in his back yard, not my own. At any time he saw the need, I wanted him to shoot his rifle. No need to discuss things first—if the need arose, he should just get in and go to shooting. We could discuss the rest of it over drinks back at camp.
Those who look down on hunting Asian buffalo because the animal is not native to Australia are missing the boat. These animals have run wild for so long there is nothing domestic, or tame, about their nature. They can be hunted using the spot-and-stalk method, which Dr. Taylor used because of his physical challenges. Or they can be hunted by stalking into the thick brush and sorting them out. Either way, the Asian buffalo is a great challenge and a wonderful trophy. It is such a great trophy that I’ll be going back to hunt them again, later this year.