Member’s Hunt: Double Bucket List Cape Buffalo

posted on February 17, 2024
MH Double Bucket List Cape Buffalo Lead

By Ellis Brown, Fort Collins, Colo.

For 40 years after first reading Capstick, Ruark and others, I wanted to hunt Cape buffalo. Then, after building my first double rifle, I wanted to do it with a rifle I had built, and at close range—50 yards or less.

Alec Kleynhans of Mafigeni Safaris had a buffalo package that was ideal for the “up close and personal” kind of hunt I wanted. We were up before daylight each day, ate a good breakfast at the lodge and drove out to the hunting area west of Kruger National Park. We saw buffalo every day; not large herds, but groups of 15-20. A couple of times we saw what looked like a good bull, but something always happened that prevented us from getting a good look—usually swirling wind—but once a springhare broke from some low cover at our feet and took the buffalo with it.

At about noon on the third day, we were spotting from a large kopje (a large hill of piled rocks) and spotted a group of five or six buffalo sleeping in a dry creek bed, in the “shade” of some mostly leafless acacias about 600 yards away. One of them was a decent bull. The hunt was on.

With Moses, our tracker, and Alec in the lead, we bailed off the kopje, I carrying my .450 No. 2 Nitro Express double rifle. In order to keep the wind right, we headed upstream and into the bush. What had looked like low, open brush from up above was, in reality, 15-20 feet high and very thick. We detoured around where we thought the buffalo were, keeping the wind in our favor. As we worked back upstream, Moses and Alec suddenly stopped and began a hushed but intense conversation in Afrikaans. Moses moved back and Alec motioned for me to come up and kneel alongside him. We were on a low bank of the streambed, and as he was pointing to the far bank—about 25 yards away—a cow buffalo came out of the brush on the far side. Then a second cow. The wind was blowing from right to left, up the streambed. The first cow started to cross downwind of us. When she was about 15 yards to our left, the bull came out of the brush. I was concerned that the cow was going to get our wind and blow the whole thing. I was on one knee and had the .450 at my shoulder with my left elbow resting on my knee. The bull was not quite clear of the brush when I fired my first shot into his quartering on, left front shoulder. At the shot, he turned to his left, giving me a shot at his right shoulder. I wanted to break bone, but as I touched off the left barrel, he reached out with his right front leg to run and I hit in the “pocket” right behind the shoulder bones. Both shots were good lung hits, but did not knock down the bull.

After the customary wait, I loaded two solids and we took up the trail. Moses was finding a good blood trail and Alec and I were watching for both the wounded bull and the other buff, lest they decide to cause trouble. We had gone maybe 75 yards through the thick stuff when off to the left we heard a bellow. We turned toward the sound and came out in more open scrub away from the streambed. There he was, under a tree, spraddle legged, but still standing. At 50 yards, I gave him both solids. I saw them kick up dust on the far side as they went through the bull. He went down on his front knees, but was still up. This time I loaded two soft-points and gave him both. He was down. I paid the insurance and it was done. Alec and Moses gave me the thumb gripping African handshake. Forty years of wanting a Cape buffalo and 30 years of wanting to do it with a rifle I built had come together in one great hunt—it was worth the wait!

Do you have an exciting, unusual or humorous hunting experience to share? 
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