MY CAPE BUFFALO SAFARI
John A. Mavilla
My first step in booking a safari for Cape Buffalo begins with ascertaining who would be a capable dangerous game professional hunter. After countless hours of searching the internet, I came upon the web site of Mugaba Safaris, Patrick de Beer, professional hunter. After re-viewing all of the provided information, I decided that I would book this hunt with Mugaba Safaris. The most compelling reason for me was the fact that Patrick was an ardent archery hunter. He is, I believe, PSE’s professional hunter in South Africa. Knowing what it takes to become and obtain the skill and knowledge of an expert bow hunter was the driving force of my decision to hunt with Patrick. This proved to be an outstanding decision on my part.
After several weeks of e-mails and the transferring of monies, I received a phone call from Patrick. After the usual greetings and introductions, my first words to Patrick were, “I want to take two female buffalos with my Krieghoff Double Rifle, and you better know what you are doing.” To this day, I don’t know how Patrick took that, but to his credit, he didn’t comment.
I arrived in the Republic of South Africa at the OR Tambo International Airport on the 5th of November 2010. After meeting with Patrick, and the P.H.A.S.A., representative, who completed the paperwork for my importation of hunting firearms, prior to my arrival. This made life and lot easier and faster. I would recommend this P.H.A.S.A., service very highly. After collecting my firearms, Patrick and I set off to have a cup of coffee before we proceeded to the hunting area and our accommodations.
During our conversation, I advised Patrick of some of my hunting experiences. I also advised him that I had completed the RSA Professional Hunter Course at Johans Calitz’s PH School in Kroonstad, RSA in October 1996. Patrick had this slight puzzled look on his face, and I thought to myself, he just thinks that I am another story telling American.
After coffee, Patrick paid the tab, we departed for the hunting area and our accommodations, which were approximately five hours away. During our drive, Patrick and I had an assortment of conversations covering just about everything required in order for us to have a pleasant and successful hunt. During one of our many conversations, I mentioned to Patrick about my inability to take a trophy Bushbuck. Later on, I would learn how this story gave Patrick a huge amount of motivation to provide me with the opportunity to take a trophy Bushbuck. This was accomplished, but that’s another part later on during this hunt.
After arriving at our accommodations, Patrick and I had a drink and then freshened up for dinner. After dinner, it to rain so heavy, that Patrick and I decided to go to bed for an early start the next morning.
The first morning of hunting began with us, my-self, Patrick and Bingo, our tracker, driving around looking for fresh tracks. Fortunately, the previous evening of heavy rain made this endeavor an easy task, and in a short period of time, we were on the tracks of a fairly large herd of Cape Buffalo. The tracks showed that the herd consisted of approximately forty buffalo. Our tracker, Bingo, advised that the tracks revealed a good amount of cow buffalo. This information gave us the motivation to progress further in search of a suitable cow buffalo.
The hunting truck was parked and we started out on foot tracking the buffalo herd. This time of the year in South Africa produces some of the hottest times of the year to hunt in. The temperature did rise into the mid to high 90’s that day, so nature and the heat began to take its toll on this 63 year old, out of shape body. I definitely was not used to hunting in South Africa this time of the year. All of my previous safaris were taken in mid-September.
We started tracking the herd at approximately 8:00 A.M., and at approximately 11:00 A.M., I was ready to call it quits, rest, drink water, eat, take a nap, and resume hunting later on in the late afternoon. Patrick, to his credit, would not allow me to quit, but we did stop for a short rest and water break. As we started tracking again, Patrick advised that the buffalo herd was only about 300 yards in front of us. Knowing how professional hunters and guides attempt to motivate their clients to continue on, I had the impression that Patrick’s estimate of distance was not to be taken at face value. Anyhow, forward we went.
Patrick now advises that he and Bingo have determined that the herd of buffalo would head for a dam to drink, cool and settle down. This dam was estimated to be approximately 500 yards away from our present position. Like humans, Cape Buffalo will seek out water and shade in the heat of the day. Cape Buffalo are also great believers in afternoon siestas.
Patrick and Bingo’s conclusion was correct and the buffalo herd was there at the dam. Some were standing in the shade next to Marula Trees, and the others were in the water soaking their muddy hides.
Patrick, Bingo and my-self then worked our way into a kneeling position under a Ghwarrie Bush. This location turned out to provide us with a great vantage point in order to pick out our quarry and wait for a clear shot. Well. Bringing in “Murphy’s Law,” into the equation, and the wind turned against us and sent our scent straight to the buffalo herd. This enticed some huge buffalo bulls, using their flehmen technique to drive the breeze over their smell organs and to come and investigate. We were so close that you could hear the buffalo bellow and smell them.
The buffalo bulls could smell us, but they couldn’t see us and they approached our position out of pure interest and curiosity, noses in the air and their bosses swaying from side to side. Since I have never been this close to dangerous game, and since I didn’t know they were approaching us out of just curiosity, I cocked my Krieghoff 470 NE double rifle, and slowly raised it to my shoulder. At this time, I had mentally drawn a line in the sand, and if that bull buffalo crossed that line, I was going to invalidate his birth certificate. That bull buffalo was only 20 yards from me and had only another 5 yards to go before I introduced him to my Krieghoff Double Rifle. Luckily the buffalo bulls lost interest and reverted back to the herd. This lack of interest on the part of the buffalo bulls came at the right time. Their action gave me time to calm down and focus on again tracking the buffalo herd.
I could honestly tell you that the, “pucker factor,” was up to around 95 out of a 100 that day. For those of you who don’t know what “pucker factor” is, go on a Cape Buffalo Safari, and I’m sure that you will find out.
Due to the size of that buffalo herd, we saw that some of the cape buffalo, at the rear of the herd, did not wind us and were confused as to why the rest of the herd took off. They just stood there gazing the area for signs of immediate danger. Bingo then observed a large cow buffalo that we could take. We exited the bushes and walked out to an open area and made sure that the buffalo saw us. That large cow buffalo was now closest to us and she raised her head in an attempt to smell us. At this time, Patrick said, “shoot.” The cow was facing directly toward me providing a frontal chest shot. I fired, and this shot struck her in the chest penetrating toward her rear portions. Upon being struck by that shot, the buffalo leap up and forward. This is a classic reaction to a heart shot. She then turned left to flee, providing me with a broadside shot to her lungs. The buffalo now turned around and began to slowly retreat. This gave the time required to re-load my double rifle and put a third round into her rump. This turned out to be the final round required to end the hunt. She went down and stayed down, giving out a death bellow.
As I was still in a hyper state of being from the taking of my first cow buffalo, the brush to my right broke loose and three Cape Buffalo Bulls charged out of the bush straight toward us. I turned toward the bulls and leaned against a small tree and placed my iron sights on the forehead of the closest bull. Again, I drew that mental line in the sand and waited for the bull to continue his charge. The bulls then stopped and continued to stare at us with their heads held up high and ready to charge. Much to my, and everyone else’s relief, the bulls didn’t charge. They turned around and ran toward the departing herd. We then took the customary photographs of the trophy and all involved.
After the cow buffalo was butchered, I learned that my first round did indeed cut through the top chambers of her heart. The second round went through both lungs lodging under the hide on the opposite shoulder. The third round was lodged in her rump. Remember, these rounds were 470 N.E., 500g Trophy Bonded Solids. This shows just how rugged these cape buffalo are.
The next day was spent sightseeing in Kruger National Park. This proved to be an amazing trip. Within three hours, we had photographs of all of the “African Big Five.” This includes the Elephant, Cape Buffalo, Lion, Leopard and White Rhino. I also photographed many of the various African plains game.
The third day proved to be Patrick’s “moment of glory.” We sent out to find a trophy Bushbuck. Patrick advised that Bushbuck like to rest up near water during the mid-morning heat. So, on foot, we stalked the heavily brushed areas near a small creek. After about one hour without any luck, we called to Bingo to bring the truck around to us so that we could continue on to another area in our search for a trophy Bushbuck. About 5 minutes after entering the new hunting area, Bingo spotted a Bushbuck lying down in some thick bush, approximately 75 yards away. With a well placed shot I down the Bushbuck. I later donated the hide to Patrick, and the meat to Bingo and his family. I was now completely satisfied with my taking of a Bushbuck.
The rest of that day was spent just being lazy. We did nothing but eat, drink, talk and sleep.
The next day was the beginning of the search for my second Cape Buffalo Cow. Again, starting off in the hunting truck, we began to search for fresh tracks. This also proved to be fairly easy, and after about one hour, we came upon fresh buffalo tracks. I took the second buffalo at approximately 20 yards, with the first round being placed in the front portion of the chest, entering the heart area. Again, the buffalo lurched forward and then turned to flee offering me a broadside shot at her lungs. The second round struck home, penetrating both lungs. This second round ended the hunt. The buffalo dropped to the ground, let out a death bellow and expired. Again, we took photographs of the trophy and all involved.
Up to this point, whenever Patrick and I talked about dangerous game rifles, and their different ballistics, the conversation ultimately turned to my Krieghoff Classic “Big Five” 470 N.E., double rifle. Now, previously before the second buffalo hunt, I let Patrick shoot my Krieghoff Double Rifle. I had desired his opinion as an African Professional Hunter on the merits of this weapon. Not one negative response came out of Patrick. So, after taking my second buffalo, I offered my double rifle to Patrick to use should he wish to take a Cape Buffalo with it. Patrick accepted my offer and contacted the owner of the buffalo on that concession. Patrick received the go ahead and he took a cow buffalo with the Krieghoff Double Rifle.
It took Patrick only one round to down his cow buffalo at approximately 15 yards. After the hunt, Patrick advised that his savings account has been opened, and that he will purchase a Krieghoff Classic “Big Five” double rifle as his back-up rifle. Patrick also stated, “the elegant Krieghoff Classic “Big Five” double rifle has crept below my skin and being a professional hunter for most of my life, I have never had the opportunity to experience such performance from a rifle. Once into your shoulder, the rifle is as stable as you can get, and due to its design and weight characteristics, it remains on target after the first shot has been taken. The triggers are smooth and its overall length is perfect for a back-up rifle on dangerous game in the African bush. Indeed, an investment worth making.”
The next day, Patrick and I took a guided tour of Life Form Taxidermist. This is Patrick’s choice of taxidermist to be utilized for mounting of African trophies. After talking with some of the employees, and seeing the facilities and finished products, I can honestly recommend this firm. Then it was off to the airport. Patrick and I had a late lunch and said our good byes.
Patrick manages to run his outfit to world class standards and he has exceeded my expectations. His knowledge of hunting the African bush, and especially Cape Buffalo, is evident in the way he goes about planning every step of the safari and the hunt. He is well connected with big players in the South Africa game industry, and his concessions, services and offerings are to be commended.