Challenge Accepted

I have a confession to make.  While I’ve hunted animals all over the world, the only one I’ve stayed away from (because cowardice) is the South African Cape buffalo.  Other reasons:  if you wound them, they will probably come after you — I believe that it’s the animal which has caused more professional hunters’ deaths than any other, and if I recall correctly, by a large margin.

Here’s a sample pic:

As the late Peter Capstick (who wasn’t killed by a buff) once said:  “They look at you like you owe them money”, but while I would defer to his judgement in everything else, in this case he’s severely understated the case.  Maybe that’s how they look at you when they’re in a good mood, but they’re so seldom in a good mood, who would know?  Their look is not so much a glare as a challenge.  In the above pic, which shows an old bull, please note that his bad mood may have been caused by the lions which left the scars on his back, and while they’ve healed, he hasn’t forgotten about it.

Small wonder that lions will almost always try for buffalo calves, because even when a cow gets into the picture to protect her calf, she won’t follow up the attack once the lions have given up on the calf and slouched off to find an old wildebeest or some other alternative.  However, this is not the case with buffalo bulls, who will not quit until they’ve disemboweled a lion or two and stomped on the remains with their broad hooves.  Lest anyone think I’m exaggerating, allow me to recount the tale of what happened to Doc Russia and Mr. Free Market on their last buffalo hunt.  (As a point of interest, both men were using rifles chambered in .375 H&H, which is the absolute minimum.)

Mr. FM had bagged his buff the day before in a fairly short hunt, and now it was Doc’s turn.  His luck was not as good as Mr. FM’s, and it took him a while to find a decent target.  Eventually, the guide spotted a pair of young bulls grazing together, and Doc decided to take one, which he did.

To everyone’s astonishment, the other bull didn’t disappear off into the wilderness;  oh no, he sauntered about a hundred-odd yards away, turned and watched his buddy die.

The dead buff was loaded up into the truck and back they all went to the hunting camp.  I say “all”, because the surviving buff followed them all the way back to the camp. Clearly, he had mischief on his mind, and had the camp not been a large one, everyone involved might well have become the targets of his revenge.

What’s even more interesting was that they weren’t aware that he’d followed them — until the next day when they went out and saw his tracks leading from the death scene all the way back along the side of the road — but not on it — and they had no clue that he was there.  (Despite their enormous size, Cape buffalo move through the bush like shadows.)

I told you all that so I could tell you this.  The above pic is part of this article, which talks about the optimal cartridges for dangerous game.

You’ve probably heard it before, but it bears repeating here: cape buffalo are really, really big and really, really tough [and really, really mean — K].  As a point of reference, a big bull can weigh twice as much as a mature bull elk.
Buffalo have thick hides, dense muscles, and heavy bones that are known for defeating lightly constructed bullets. Since buffalo are often encountered at close range and in thick cover, the margin for error is very small and more than a few hunters have lost their lives (or spent time in a hospital) as a result of poor bullet performance.

Go ahead and read the rest of the article:  it’s a good one.  And even if you never hunt Cape buff, just tip your hat to the guys who have, and will in the future.  There is no bigger (and potentially more-dangerous hunt) than this one.

Update:  Mr. Free Market sent me a pic of his buff:

His rifle is a Blaser S2 double in .375 H&H, the scope is a Swarovski Z6i 1-6×24.  Nothing but the best for His Lordship… and yes, it was a one-shot kill.


  1. Remember that people used to hunt them with spears! Me? I’ll just drive the other way. Fast.

    1. Think I’d rather go after a pig, at night, with a cavalry saber. Sweet double rifle, but a scope? Oh the shame. I’d think at the ranges (or lack thereof) that you’re likely to find one of these critters a scope would just get in the way.

  2. Does this mean you are going after a cape buff? You could pick something safer like a hippo or a salt-water crocodile.

    1. Yeah, just me, a scuba suit and a diver’s knife, against a hippo. What could possibly go wrong?

  3. I will stick to hunting squirrels…lol

    As a yoot ( I was in 8th grade) I read J A Hunters book on PHing. Interesting was that Buffs have tongues like wood rasps. Hunter related a story of fella who poorly shot one. Lost his nerve and headed up a tree. Only thing though was that one of his legs was hanging lower than the other. Buff spent some time licking that leg until he was down to the bone. Poor guy bled to death as I recall.

  4. Around the year 2000 I was shooting in a skeet league in Dallas on Wednesday evenings, lots of nice guys on five man teams. One man on one of the other teams was visiting with us before he took a trip to Africa and he was excited about the chance to shoot a Cape Buffalo. Next time I saw him he had a black eye and a half moon cut across his right eyebrow, I asked him if that happened on his trip and he said yes. His guide had explained to him that Cape Buffalo do not like to die alone and it was important to place his shot exactly right, friend got caught up in getting the exact shot, which he did, and forgot to keep his head safely back. The guide told him that happened from time to time and the several people who have shot Cape Buffalo who I know seem to always have an interesting story to go along with their adventure.

  5. A lot of former Sheridan gunners have a similar scar. We’d tell them to lean way back before they fired. Invariably if they did it chased them down in recoil and dotted their eye. Stick your mush right up against the browpad and it’d just push you back.

    1. That’s not a double rifle … that’s artillery (/snark)

      For those who recall Og, aka Neanderpundit, he had a double rifle in .45-70. It was nicknamed The Backhoe, ’cause it kicked up that much dirt from the berm.

      1. Actually, the .45-70 Govt doesn’t kick as much as it pushes. And the rifle type makes a huge difference: in my heavy, bull-barreled 28″ 1885, the recoil is less than a .308 Win. (If one went with the 405-gr Buffalo Bore heavies, however, it would be another story.)

        Ditto the heavy double rifles like the S2 Blaser. The 375 H&H is quite manageable; stepping up to the .416 Rigby or .470 NE… ouch.

  6. Many, many years ago I was in the home of a friend, retired Army colonel, and saw the head of his cape in his sun room. Or possibly occupying his sun room. This man had safaried on every continent except Antarctica and said that going after the Cape Buff was the most nerve wracking experience he had every had; combat was a walk in the park by comparison. Like Kim’s friends the colonel was using a .375 H&H mag, whilest the guide had a .45-70. “Bald bwana” did his one shot magic and that was that. Needless to say the cape had somehow winded them and was moving quickly to investigate the situation. Wow. Until you see one the old white hunter books don’t seem real.

  7. Peter Grant and Lawdog (gentlemen also experienced in African critters) have also commented on the cape buffalo. I believe their advice boiled down to ‘bring enough gun, and don’t miss’.

  8. I have been to Alaska a number of times in the past and also the Yukon. From individuals there with long years of experience I have garnered that Polar Bears are gigantic predators and actually hunt humans. Some of the stories of polar bear encounters rival your Black Death tales.

    Dan Kurt

  9. Exquisite rifle. Were I into hunting (I’m not, really), I’d want something like that. A double REEKS of African hunting.

  10. I thought this sounded familiar. 4-5 years ago I bought a book called Death in the Long Grass. It had a chapter each on the 10 most dangerous animals in Africa. Chapter 4 is on the Cape Buffalo.

    I pulled the book up on my Kindle and found the author is: Peter Capstick.

    Excellent and interesting book even for a non-hunter such as myself.

    “Terror grabbed his chest with the first grunt, short and hard from the tangle to his right. It was close, too close, the man knew as he froze, watching the branches shake as the snorts came nearer. He found his legs in a burst of adrenalin panic as the buffalo broke cover, black, hooked head up, pale gray eyes locked on his. Too frightened to shriek, the man dropped his spear and ran for his life, the thunder of flatiron hooves hammering just over his shoulder.

    Thirty yards ahead a large muSassa tree overhung the path with fluffy, green arms, and hope flooded into the terrified man. He was only two paces from the leap that would save him when the flats of massive horns smashed into the small of his back, driving him against the base of the tree with terrible power. Instantly, the bull hit him again, crushing his upper chest against the rough bark, splintering ribs and clavicles like a lizard under a heavy boot. The man was probably dead before his shattered form could fall over.

    That was just as well. Foam blowing over his boiler-tank chest, the buffalo sprang back for a moment, then charged, hooking the cadaver on an icepick horn and dragging it back onto the path. For long minutes he chopped the man like chicken liver with axe-edged hooves the diameter of salad plates.

    Then, the way a dog will act with a dead snake, he methodically ground what was left of the corpse into the earth by rolling his ton of weight upon it again and again. Satisfied, the gory hulk grunted again and backed off a few paces, watching to see that his victim did not move. Ten minutes passed before he turned and made his way back into the thicket where he lay down, pondering the maggot-crawling, festering wound on his hip.

    An hour later, returning from a successful kudu hunt with two clients and four of my native staff, we found the body lying in the trail. We had come from the opposite direction, dry and tired after long hours of tracking, and it wasn’t until I had stared at the remains for several seconds that I was even able to recognize what it was. You will see better-looking bodies in plane crashes.”

    He’s a Helluva writer

    As are you, Kim.

  11. On further thought, perhaps it was something you said that led me to buy the book. I can’t think of where else I would have heard about it.

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