Friday, 27 March 2020

BUFFALO HUNT, PART 1

HUNTING BUFFALO IN THE EASTERN CAPE.


I have just returned from a hunt in the Eastern Cape of South Africa, back to the real world of corona virus, self isolation, panic buying and working from home.  What a huge difference from a week ago, when I was hunting for my first buffalo, the outside world then was not even a consideration, my focus was entirely on the job in hand.

That morning my alarm had been set for 03.30 but I had woke up before the alarm and lay in bed mulling over the possible scenarios that might play out in the next few hours, would we see buffalo, would we stalk buffalo, would I shoot straight, would we have to follow up a wounded buffalo?  Enough dreaming I thought as I got out of bed and dressed for the hunt, I picked up my rifle, checked it was clear and grabbed my belt and ammunition slide.  I was using a .375HH firing 300 grain Rhino bullets, I had six rounds in my belt slide and a further four in my pocket to be loaded into the rifle when the hunt began.  The last items were my binoculars and compact digital camera, I donned my hat and I was ready to go.  I did not want to be encumbered with too much gear, only carrying the essentials, spare ammunition, food and drinks would stay in the truck.

My PH was Devan De Lange of Winterberg Safaris, I had booked a cull hunt and with him through Global-outdoors, my intended species were to be warthog, impala, a kudu cow or wildebeest, definitely not buffalo.  It was on the afternoon of our first hunting day when the subject of buffalo came up, just generally chatting, I was asking him what experiences he had had, and listening to the stories he related about having to shoot clients wounded buffalo.  He then asked me if I had ever shot a buffalo, I admitted I had not, as the cost had always been prohibitive.  Devan then went on to say that a buffalo cow or a young bull could be as low as £2000.00 pounds, now this put a different slant on things.  I asked him what the extra day rate would be, he replied that there were no extras, as I had accommodation already booked.  He did say if your interested I will need to know as soon as possible to get things organised.

That afternoon Devan made a couple of phone calls, just to see what was available, in his opinion an old cow buffalo was the best option, and by the time we were back at the lodge, my mind was made up, if Devan could arrange it in the remaining four days, I was going to hunt for a buffalo!

We carried on with the cull hunt the next morning, taking an impala ewe at 246 meters with a 30 06 off the sticks, followed by a warthog and another impala ewe.  That evening Devan got confirmation that a friend of his had old buffalo cows available to hunt, the ground was a two and a half hour drive from where we were hunting, made worse by the ruts and potholes in the road, caused by the intense rain over the last couple of weeks.  The hunt was to take place on Friday 20th March, the intervening days passed and we were on our way.

Meeting Devan on the veranda, I had a quick cup of tea and a few cornflakes before we left.  We were taking our tracker Pololo with us as well as Sophie and Shooter, two of Devan's dogs, these would be used to follow up a wounded buffalo should the need arise.  With a stop for fuel and snacks we eventually got to the hunting area at 07.00, we were met by a local tracker who knew the ground and who would accompany us during the hunt.  A few minutes later the lodge manager came and greeted us, and after a short chat we set off.

The ground consisted of tall hills and steep sided valleys, in some areas the ground was covered in thick acacia thorn trees, where visibility would be down to just a few feet, where as other areas were more open and offered fifty to sixty yards of visibility.  We drove slowly stopping periodically to glass for buffalo, but none were seen. The road started to climb one of the steep hills, and Devan now drove us even slower up the track that at times hardly seemed wide enough to accommodate the truck.  Drop off's of over five hundred feet seemed to be perilously close from my view point, and it was not with out a sigh of relief when our local tracker tapped on the roof and instructed us to stop on a wider piece of level ground.  Here at least we could open the doors of the truck and get out safely.

Leaving Devan and I at the truck the two trackers now proceeded on foot to find a vantage point from which they could search for buffalo.  We now started to search for the elusive buffalo in among the thick bush that covered the flanks of the hill using our binoculars.   Twenty minutes later Devan spotted a buffalo cow and calf, this was encouraging, as Devan was convinced the heard would be close.  Ten minutes later the radio sprang to life, the trackers had found the heard.

Buffalo heard at 600 meters.



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