Another story from the Bush.
1998 saw me and my two American friends taking off from Victoria Falls airport in Zimbabwe in a single engine Cesna plane with my friend and PH Paul Stone. We were destined for a tribal hunting area on the edge of Lake Kariba and in front of us lay a 7 day hunt for Cape Buffalo, followed by a 7 day Plains game hunt in South Africa on a National Park near the Botswana border. After this I was leaving Africa but I had organised a further 6 days in Zululand for the two other men and their families for Nyala.
The aircraft was very loaded, and by the time we had fought our way against a strong headwind, we arrived over the improvised air strip in the middle of the bush as the light was failing. Our approach was quite sudden and steep and as we were approaching the runway, I heard the pilot come out with a well known fraize " OH ****" he instantly pulled back on the controls and we climbed back into the air. "What the hell is going on" I replied from the back of the plane, "Bloody Elephants on the runway" he replied, "we will have to go round again". As we banked to approach again I could see a column of dust kicked up by two landcrusiers and the Elephants beating a hast retreat off the runway.
On landing we were greated by two other PH's Rory and Chris aka Stretch.
The pilot tied the plane to some large concrete blocks, "does it get windy round here" I asked. "No its to keep the Elephants from knocking the plane over"
The camp was on a peninsula poked out into Lake Kariba. For those of you that are not familier with this part of the world, Lake Kariba is about 180 miles long and has on average 1 Crocodile for every 10 mtrs of shoreline Plus Hippos, lots of them.
The first day hunting I walked about 5 miles on some fresh Buffalo spoor with Chris (Stretch) and although we kept this up we never caught up with the three bulls we were chasing. After a serious climb back down some steep terrian to take a short cut back to the hunting vehicle, we enjoyed a lunch in the bush. I had my 375 BRNO with a Burris signature scope on the lid, with home loads consisting of 300g federal solids and 300g soft nose noslers. I always think a mix and match batch in the mag is a good for Buffalo. Break bones with the first shot and cause vascular damage with the second, and so on until the 5 rounds are spent.
Late afternoon we cut some spoor along the Lake edge, and the tracker spotted a herd of Buffalo dissapearing into the Mopane thicket nearby. quick reverse gear on the vehicle and then out and check weapons, and off at a quick pace, was the order.
Our approach was quite straight forward until we go near to the herd, which with luck had settled down again and were under a great deal of undergrowth. Through the bino's one could ake out a mass of heads, tails and the occassional calf walking around. This was not going to be easy !!
The time was against us it was about 4pm and darkness would be apon us by about 5.15 to 5.30. Chris decided to execute a stalk on the herd, and I followed behind. I noticed that he put on some kid skin gloves, and wonderd why!!. I soon found out, the whole area was littered with thorns in the warm sandy soil, and they stuck into your palms every time you crawled forward.
We reached a small acacia bush and I sat behind Chris, and glassed the herd, which was about 60yds away!! There was a good wind in our face, and masses of Buffalo in front, but no clear target, althoguh we could make out one or two good bulls in the herd. My desire was for an old bull, one that looked like it had seen a lot of action. Action, hmmmm that has a ring to it........little did I know the action that was about to unfold.
Time was marching on and there was no way we could penetrate the herd. Chris leaned back and told me that he had a plan. "We will run at the herd, they will think we are Lions" ............WHAT!!! ............... "are you game for it"!!
Jesus, I had heard that Chris was a bit crazy, but this seemed like madness. I checked my rifle, "May as well I replied" and in an instance he was up and gone
I followed into a haze of dust and trees, and the Buffalo..........well they paniced and ran !! I found Chris with the sticks up and calling me over, quickly I put the 375 onto the sticks, a large bull was sranding broadside about 70yds off, but before I could squeeze off a round it was gone again.
Running alongside Chris we found our way out into the open flood plains on the lake edge, and slap bang into about 80 Cape Buffalo, standing looking back at us, and thinking what the hell was that!!
I kneeled down and a big old bull stepped out from the herd, and Chris told me to take it. The 375 solid hit the bull right in the brisket, and it turned and bucked all over the place, befoer dissaperaring back in to the black mass of Buffalo in front of us. The wind was blowing from our right, and the Buffalo had not winded us. Walk towards them Malcolm, dont worry they will run. Yeah right, I remember looking back at the two balck trakers who were by this time about 100yds back from us and were walking backwards into the Mopane bush.
I walked towards the herd with Chris and they took off to our right running into the wind, towards a finger of forest sticking out into the floodplain. Ahh I thought there will be a big dead Buffalo here somewhere?
NOTHING........Blood but no Buff.............ohhh ****!! Now I was worried.
Quick Chris replied run this way. Now I was running up the side of the herd through the tall grass and sparse bush to cut the herd off before it reached the forest edge, knowing that once we were ahead of them they would get our wind
Sure enough as we came to the head of the herd they stopped and 5 bulls came out of the herd and headed our way at a brisk walk, tossing their heads as they came forward. We were out in the open, no trees and I quickly took two more round out of my belt and held them in my fingers under the fore end. The Buffalo were about 60yds away, when the bull I had hit came round from the back of the herd and headed our way, passing the other 5 bulls. It was not charging but was trotting towards us and didnt look happy.
Chris shouted "there it is, shoot man shoot". With this the bull reeled round and tossed its head and sprayed the air with blood. I opened up with the 375, putting a round straight into its shoulders to try and break the legs and put it on the floor. On the report of the rifle the bull bellowed and stepped towards me. The distance was about 30yds, I fired again, hitting it in the same spot, it still soaked up the shot and stood bellowing and trying to move forward, the fourth shot dropped it at about 20yds. Chris shouted "dont shoot its dead as I walked towards it" I told him to move away, which he did and the last shot from my 375 was in the neck; I had heard to many stories of dead Buffalo killing people, and I did not intend to be one of them.
So I had my Buffalo. The two balck trakers proceeded to cut it in half with an axe and knife, while I stood in the failing light of another Africa day and marvelled at the wildlife that was now showing itself as the sun had gone down.
We were late back into camp that night, and the whisky tasted good. The icing on the cake was to find my dear friend Conyers from America had also taken a nice Buff as well.
Conyers bought me a silver embossed Buffalo head, for a momento of the hunt, from Vic Falls. I have that in my pick up truck and it is one of my most treasured items. Unfortunatly Conyers passed away just over 2 years ago. But everytime I climb into my truck I can look at that Buffalo head and remember the exciting time and the wonderful memory of hunting the Black Death as they call the Cape Buffalo, with a good man like Conyers.
I had many more adventures in Africa, Scotland and America with Conyers. A more honest, generous, kind man would be hard to find. He told me once that Hunting animals is a right and that we hunt them for their hides, but its their hearts we really want to win over. I like to think he is still around somewhere doing what we all like to do on this site.
Good hunting to you all.