Hunting > Big Game

The Buff Down Under

Images of buffalo usually conjure up the great Cape buffalo of Africa. But the ones in Australia provide the same excitement at far less cost.

Whatever you do, please don’t call this a culling operation,” said Simon Kyle-Little as we drove through the Australian woods. “What we are doing is very selectively removing old, sick and undesirable buffalo from the vast herds that we have here. We are managing the herds, not culling them.”

Dr. Dean Taylor, Il Ling New and I were booked with Simon Kyle-Little and his company, Australian Big Game Safaris (www.australianbiggamesafaris.com), on a management hunt for Asian buffalo. Brothers Vee and Doug Miller, close friends of ours, were also hunting from the camp.

We quickly found that Kyle-Little has a concession in the middle of great buffalo country in an area called Eastern Arnhem Land. This is a 12-million-acre mass of wooded, often swampy land that is owned by the tribal councils of the native Australians. Simon’s concession is slightly more than 2 million acres. And the only fence in that 2 million acres is the one around the garden at the main camp.

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To understand how Asian buffalo got to Australia, you have to go back to the 1830s. During those days, the British government decided to establish a chain of forts along the coast of northern Australia. And, since Australia did not have any large game animals that were suitable for feeding the troops, the British began to import Asian buffalo, banteng and a European cow that has come to be called the Australian wild ox. In just a short time, the forts were abandoned and these animals were turned out to fend for themselves. Since there are no predators to worry them, these animals have done exceptionally well during the 150 or so years they’ve been running wild.

Even though the Asian buffalo has been domesticated in other parts of the world, it is a challenging game animal where it has been left to run wild, as is the case in Australia. The massive, sweeping horns of mature, 1,800-pound Asian buffalo are really something to see. One will generally weigh more than a Cape buffalo, it’s just as difficult to bring down and it has almost as nasty a disposition. When wounded, it’s nothing anyone in his right mind wants to tackle, especially in the thick brush.

Asian buffalo tend to congregate in small, family groups. Just as with other wild bovine, they will feed in the morning and evening, spending the middle of the day laid up and chewing their cud. Cows and younger bulls will often be located feeding in the open; however, they are never far from cover. Older bulls often become solitary and generally stick to the thickest brush.
Not long ago, Simon had an encounter with a bull in the thick stuff. As the bull charged, Simon began raising his rifle and backing up. He tripped on a fallen tree limb and landed flat on his back as the bull closed the distance between them. Snapping up his old Brno .375 H&H, Simon shot the bull when it was inches from the gun’s muzzle. Close calls like that one give a hunter a healthy respect for the Asian buffalo.

I was present when Il Ling New took her buffalo bull with her custom CZ in .375 H&H Magnum topped off with a Leupold 1.5X-5X scope. We had hunted our way some 3 miles from where we had parked the truck and had stalked up on several buffalo cows and one trophy bull, which was not on our ticket. Moving along, with the wind in our faces, Simon and Il Ling spotted a mature bull feeding quietly. Closing to within about 40 yards, New dropped to a kneeling position and shot the bull through both shoulders.

The bull spun away from the shot, then ran behind one of the large anthills that cover the area and began looking for someone to blame. Had we moved at all, there’s no doubt we would have sustained a charge. As it was, New’s shot was perfectly made and the bull went down.

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Simon Kyle-Little instituted these management hunts in order to get the less desirable animals out of the buffalo herds. He wants to remove the dry cows (those beyond breeding age), sick and injured animals and mature bulls with a horn spread of less than 100 inches. This leaves young cows and trophy bulls to produce the next generation of buffalo. His management hunts allow the client to take four head of game, three cows and a bull.

Another value of the management hunt is to reduce the number of animals that graze a particular area. To allow any group of wild animals to multiply without periodic reduction causes an area to be overgrazed. When that happens, the game is subject to disease and hunger and reduced production of young. In addition, the quality of the trophy animals is drastically reduced. One only needs to look at some areas of the Texas Hill Country to see how overpopulation has reduced the quality of its whitetail deer.

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