Hunting > African Game

Cape Buffalo in the Long Grass

Buffalo are Africa's most desired dangerous game, and for good reason.

If you’ve been following my recent blogs about my 31-day safari to Tanzania last month, you’ll know that I’m trickling out the highlights of the hunt on a steady basis. The Cape buffalo I shot was a classic example of the adrenalin that goes with hunting mbogo in what may be the most dangerous of all habitats— East African long grass.

The grass was between four and five feet tall and spread as far as the eye could see in the open fields that composed parts of the Kigosi flood plain. Now, a buffalo stands about four feet tall at the shoulder, so if he’s in grass that’s five feet tall… you do the math.

We stumbled on the tracks of a pair of dagga boys (solitary males) as we tried to approach a small band of Lichstenstein’s hartebeest. The hartebeest spooked, so we returned the few hundred yards to where we’d seen the buffalo tracks and I swapped my .300 H&H Magnum for a .416 Rigby that one of our trackers, Trifone, had been carrying for me.

We entered the long grass, the trackers easily picking up the barely perceptible tracks of the two buffalo bulls. The uncanny eyesight and intuition of seasoned African trackers once again amazed me.

We never would have seen the bulls because the grass was taller than their backs, however, we saw the cattle egrets that followed them. If I was a buffalo, I’d buy a shotgun and a case of #7 ½ because the damn tick birds and cattle egrets are their downfall.

Using the egrets as big white markers, we easily followed the buffalo as they meandered through the grass. They spooked when the wind slightly shifted, but buffalo don’t run far if they only get a slight whiff of your man-scent. With the egrets to guide us, we caught them in a few minutes after they settled down.

Large termite mounds sprouted out of the ground around whatever tree was dumb enough to grow in the long grass, making for wonderful viewing platforms. The buffalo liked the termite mounds as well because the trees they encompassed offered some shade. We moved from one termite mound to the next as we closed the distance to the egret-marked buffalo.

At last we clambered up a mound that afforded us an angle of the next mound, about 70 yards away, where the better of the two dagga boys was shading himself. It was a quartering-away shot, by I was loaded with 400 gr. Barnes X bullets and I knew that even the heavy bone and muscle of a buffalo was no match for the solid copper bullet’s penetration.

The big rifle slammed my shoulder and wet, meaty thump of a bullet hitting home came back immediately.

“Reload, reload!” yelled my professional hunter, Michel Mantheakis of Miombo Safaris. “Shoot him again!”

By now the buffalo was lumbering through the long grass and all I could see was the grass folding down in front of him. Suddenly a glimpse of black hide. I shot into the hump, another hit. Michel fired his .450 Dakota right after my shot, another hit.

We climbed a termite mound and looked carefully in the direction the buffalo had run. “Cover me,” Michel said as he climbed down the mound. “I’m going to the next mound.”

I watched from my vantage point as the PH gingerly made his way to the next mound about 50 yards away. He made it and as he climbed the next mound, I saw him tense and then throw his rifle to his shoulder and fire. The buffalo was down not 20 yards from him, but you don’t take any chances. He stuck in a finisher and the buffalo gave that baleful bellow, the death bellow, and that was that.

A buffalo in the long grass is about as exciting as Africa gets, but not quite. Stay tuned and I’ll get into the number one most adrenalin dumping experience next time— a charging elephant.

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