Buffalo on the run ... Chapter 1

OntarioHunter

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As requested, here is the story of my recent African cape buffalo hunt. Hell, you know me. I'd stuff it down your throats if it wasn't requested.

I flew into Kimberly area specifically to hunt buffalo. The country up there has not been hit so hard by the seven year drought that has plagued the lodge's country in East Cape. Flying into the airport I could only marvel at what lay below me. "Man, that is some HUNTING land for sure!" Sorry I couldn't get a good photo. My seat was almost on top of the plane's wing. We arrived at the farm owner's beautiful home in the afternoon in time to check the rifles at the range. I brought my Springfield 30-06 with me that had only just been rebarreled three days before leaving. It put up a decent group the day before my flight so I figured it was good to go. And at the farm's range it hit the bull 2" high at 100 yards which was about right. I then took one shot with the PH's .375 CZ Magnum Safari, the same gun I used to take my buffalo on the last trip. It was bang on. So I was ready to go ... or so I thought. Next morning Glen, the tracker, and I went hunting for red hartbeest while the owner looked for the bull buffalo he wanted shot. It was a nasty old dagga boy who had been doing damage to some of the younger animals in the buffalo herd. He couldn't dethrone the herd bull and was taking out his frustration on some of the calves. Time to cull that guy. The property we were hunting is immense, particularly the hunting sections. The variety and quantity of game is absolutely mind boggling. As we drove out that first morning I could see springbuck everywhere. They were like gophers on the Great Plains. A group of local hunters was in the hunting lodge across the road culling dozens of them every day. All I had to do was look in any direction and there would be gemsbuck, zebra, blesbuck, bontbuck, sable, roan. kudu, waterbuck, impala, wildebeest (blue and black and even a couple of the cultivated golden variety), buffalo, and giraffe. giraffe.JPG
Springbuck, gemsbuck, and zebra were quite spooky, but most of the other animals would stand and look at the truck as we drove by.
Roan.JPG However, once you stepped on the ground they ALL would take off. Glen explained that this farm does not allow shooting from vehicles and that's why most animals will tolerate trucks driving by. My lodge simply will not deal with any property that allows shooting from a vehicle. It wrecks the hunting. And it's hardly ethical.

After about an hour our tracker seated in the pickup's crows nest pounded on the cab. He spotted a lone hartbeest several hundred yards out on a small rise. Those things really gleam, especially in the morning sun. It was a nice old bull and the stalk was on. Moving from bush to bush we closed the distance to eighty yards and I got on the sticks. Bang ... and away he went. What the ...? An idiot could make that shot. He didn't go far and stood behind a bush at 200 yards. Another easy shot and nothing happened. Curiously, whem bumped the bull never ran far before stopping, but he never let us get in range again. Glen figured he was just a very old animal in tough shape. We finally determined it wasn't hit and gave up. Back in the vehicle Glen spotted a herd of hartbeest out on an open plain. They were all cows and calves and on the move as soon as we stopped. Then our tracker spotted a group of seven bulls and a lone wildebeest way off to the left. They were grazing and hadn't seen us yet. It was a difficult long stalk but we were finally within 250 metres when Glen set up the sticks. No more cover to get closer. It seemed to take forever before the big bull in the middle was clear of the others for a shot. I put the Springfield's crosshairs a bit high and centred on his shoulder. This time we heard a hit. The bull should have been knocked over but instead it took off running with the others. I could see through the scope his right front leg was flopping at the knee. What the hell! They didn't go far before stopping. We closed to 100 yards for an easy broadside shot. Nothing! Away they went again. This time I took a shot at the bull on the run and there was another audible hit but he kept going. The group stopped at two hundred metres. Our bull was now obviously very sick. I put the crosshairs in the centre of his boiler room and down he went, finally. We walked up cautiously. Surprisingly, his head was still up. The rest of the bulls stood there letting us get within fifty yards before running. They moved off about 150 yards and never left. Guess they were waiting for granddad to give orders. The bull on the ground was hit in the back just touching shoulder end of backstraps. The previous hit on the run was gut shot. Good grief! Glen finished the poor bugger with a 9mm shot to the heart which was fine with me. My 165 gr Partitions would make a mess at point blank range.
hartbeest.jpg
The owner called on the radio: he'd spotted the designated bad boy buffalo with three other bulls on the other end of the property. As quickly as possible our tracker fetched the truck and we loaded the hartbeest. The owner took us to the general area of the buffalo. They were last seen hanging out near the base of a steep koppi (hill) in terrible thick stuff: acacia and blackthorn that will rip clothes at every opportunity. We could hear the bulls walking around us ... and they could hear us too. Round and round we went in that crap. They weren't coming out and, much to my relief, Glen decided to give it up when the sun went behind the koppi. I tell ya, waltzing around in that jungle for an hour or so thirty to forty yards from a group of four one thousand pound animals that could at any moment switch from flight to fight was more than a little unnerving ... even for old Mr. Cool from Canada. Yeah, we had three big guns ... but there were four of them. As we walked back to the truck Glen explained that it's almost unheard of for more than one bull in a bunch to charge. "Almost" didn't ease my anxiety a whole helluva lot.

Back at the ranch complex, while the skinners and our tracker were working on the hartbeest, Glen picked up the lodge's 30-06 and we headed back to the range. Three rounds and my Springfield was shooting all over the paper at 100 yards. The lodge gun shot where it was supposed to. It would have to be my plains game gun for the rest of this trip. That night I was up at 3:00 a.m. tied in knots about that Springfield. What the heck happened? I pulled the gun from the case and checked it over. Hmmm. With butt on the floor, I grabbed the barrel in left hand and fore end in right hand. The barrel wiggled all the way to the action. It had somehow come loose from the bedding job I'd done for the new barrel two days before leaving. Well, I wasn't going to mess with trying to fix it. I came to Africa to hunt not spend a lot of time at the range sorting out mysteries. At least I had an explanation and that was enough to get me back to sleep and rested for day two.
 
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Happy Myles

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That old Springfield means so much to you I hope you get its issues fixed. Any problems with the initial flights to Kimberly? Were you with the same outfitter as your previous trip?
 

Happy Myles

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Once, I flew into Kimberly and it was snowing. People were outside in the middle of the night watching it. Pigeons on the hotel roof were miserable. No it was not during the Ice Age.
 

OntarioHunter

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That old Springfield means so much to you I hope you get its issues fixed. Any problems with the initial flights to Kimberly? Were you with the same outfitter as your previous trip?
It's fixed. I didn't get it bedded properly after the new barrel went on. Short of time. But it threw a good group the day before I left so I packed it up. I was ready to leave it behind if it didn't. You'd think shooting it a dozen times at the range would be enough to shake it loose but apparently not. I'm thinking the epoxy shrank when fully dried? Perhaps slinging it was enough to twist the stock and pull the action/barrel loose. Who knows. But it is rock solid now and putting bullets on top of each other at 100 yards. Looks like that new barrel is a winner. The Buhler design striker safety has always been a bit flaky, sometimes disengaging when the bolt was lifted. Now that is fixed as well. While I had the gun apart I dropped in a Timney trigger. That makes a huge difference, especially at the range. According to the literature it's set at 3 lbs at the factory which seems adequate. Crispness is definitely an asset. Also, to make it work required altering the safety which was long overdue anyway. I hated to mess with Dad's work but it's a much better gun now. He would appreciate that. Unfortunately, the old war horse no longer fits in the scabbard I made for it. That is a heartbreaker.

My flights all the way through were changed several times after booking. Pandemic pandemonium. At one point Air Canada had me landing in Switzerland the day after I was scheduled to take off from that airport for Joberg! I was then rerouted to Frankfurt first with a fourteen hour layover there. At Joberg airport I was met by the PH Association's guy to help me get the guns sorted out (I also brought a double rifle for the lodge owner). Not only did Marcus sort out the guns but he also noticed I had booked my return flight from Port Elizabeth for the same day I arrived at Joberg. Oh no! Fortunately, the flight on to Kimberly was seven hours away so we had time to change the PE flight. Whew! I had sent my official itineraries on to everyone involved including the Canadian govt for export documents and no one but Marcus noticed. Needles to say he received a very healthy tip! The appreciative email I sent to the Association seemed to mean more to him.

Yes, with the same outfitter. I really like my PH. I think he will go a long ways in that business.
 
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Happy Myles

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Ontario, your Father would be pleased, flattered, and honored at your efforts to fix and the adventures you have shared with the second hand military rifle he customized for you. How far/long from Kimberly was the drive to the lodge? How many days did you hunt? I have had bad luck in Frankfurt a couple times and try to stay away from there.
 

OntarioHunter

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We stayed in the property owner's house (mansion actually). The lodge was full of local management hunters. Maybe it wasn't full but my PH has had some tough luck with those groups in the past. Too much booze flowing. The property owner didn't want us mixing it up with this bunch and I guess he had a reason. It was about an hour and half drive from Kimberly airport. The drive back to the lodge in East Cape was over five hours. That seemed like a ride around the block compared to the miles I put on my Jimmy the month before leaving for Africa. Thirty plus hours straight through to Montana for my HS class reunion. A half dozen trips to VA Hospital in Twin Cities at 6+ hrs one way. Then all over hell's half acre getting the barrel mess straightened out: four hours to Wisconsin to wrest my gun from phoney gunsmith, then on to Minneapolis for COVID test, then up to Fort Frances for the first day Canada opened the border where I waited in line for NINE HOURS before getting to customs. Ninety degree weather and no shade. I thought the dogs would die. Then on up to Red Lake, Ontario where a real gunsmith finally put the barrel on and adjusted head space. Red Lake boasts the northern most stoplight in Ontario ... that no longer works. Then seven hours back to my house three days before flying out. By the time I got to Africa I had to pick up the bags under my eyes or trip on them.

I hunted nine days.
 
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OntarioHunter

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... I have had bad luck in Frankfurt a couple times and try to stay away from there.
The flight back to Toronto from Frankfurt was delayed more than an hour getting off the ground. They were trying to load a nearly full 747 from a gate twice the size of my living room. Mostly a planeload of ... Middle Eastern types ... who either didn't know about social distancing or didn't give a shit. Much more scarier than chasing around phantom buffalo in a blackthorn jungle. Would I end my days going down in flames over the Atlantic or gasping for air on an Ontario ventilator?

Passengers get their cardio at Frankfurt airport. I only saw one conveyor and it was very short. Glad I was wearing my hiking boots!
 

devon deer

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The flight back to Toronto from Frankfurt was delayed more than an hour getting off the ground. They were trying to load a nearly full 747 from a gate twice the size of my living room. Mostly a planeload of ... Middle Eastern types ... who either didn't know about social distancing or didn't give a shit.
I guess you hadn't seen the news in SA?;)

Congrats on your hunt so far, I hunted near Kimberley (if you could it hunting what I did) pity about the 30-06.
What was the name of your outfitter?
 

JV842

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The flight back to Toronto from Frankfurt was delayed more than an hour getting off the ground. They were trying to load a nearly full 747 from a gate twice the size of my living room. Mostly a planeload of ... Middle Eastern types ... who either didn't know about social distancing or didn't give a shit. Much more scarier than chasing around phantom buffalo in a blackthorn jungle. Would I end my days going down in flames over the Atlantic or gasping for air on an Ontario ventilator?

Passengers get their cardio at Frankfurt airport. I only saw one conveyor and it was very short. Glad I was wearing my hiking boots!
Never flown out of Frankfurt, flying in was good. Flying out of Stuttgart on the other hand!! Ouch!!
 

OntarioHunter

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I guess you hadn't seen the news in SA?;)

Congrats on your hunt so far, I hunted near Kimberley (if you could it hunting what I did) pity about the 30-06.
What was the name of your outfitter?
The township riots were over and done with by the time I got there. The thugs proclaimed a "shutdown" day of protest for a Tuesday while I was hunting but nothing came of it.

COVID restrictions were rigidly enforced, especially in Joberg Airport. I swear there was a disinfectant station every hundred feet in there. Masks worn everywhere inside and out. One ticket desk gal walked by a station without cleaning her hands and the security guard made her come back. I don't understand Afrikans but I didn't have to. The body language exchange going on told it all! The air turned blue but she backed down and obeyed. No food or drinks served on any domestic flights. No one allowed in the airports but passengers and employees. To tell you the truth, I felt a lot safer from COVID in South Africa than I did a few weeks earlier in Montana. I got my predeparture COVID test in Port Elizabeth: in and out drive thru and only $60. The local pirates here are hooking passengers almost $600! Screw that! The day before my flight I drove six hours to Minneapolis VA hospital and got mine for free.

Very few changes in the Joberg Airport since I was there last but one caught my eye. They have put up photographic murals on the corridor walls to promote tourist attractions. Here's one of photo safari in Krueger Park. No surprise. Next one is lovely Caucasian visitors on bikes touring the Townships. No kidding! I told my PH about it and his jaw almost hit the steering wheel. "Those tourists better have a lot of cash on them or they won't get out of there with their clothes on."
 
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devon deer

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I was referring to the news in Kabul, that might explain what you witnessed in the airport, people escaping Kabul.
 

JV842

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Never flown out of Frankfurt, flying in was good. Flying out of Stuttgart on the other hand!! Ouch!!
Me n the wife were flying home from a trip to Alsace, the morning we were supposed to leave Stuttgart, terrorist threat, the next day; we fly standby, airport overpacked from the day before, had to wait an additional day, then hopped KLN to Amsterdam to finally make it home before Christmas. I’m a bit more easy going than my wife; roll w the punches, she was pissed
Air travel overseas standby is always a bit of a challenge but definitely doable but now w COVID, ouch!!!
 

JV842

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To the OP, congrats!!! Have always dreamed of an African trip
Them big spiral horns, roan, sable, n a buff would be something special
N the old rifle!! Wow!
My old mans sporterized ‘98 7mag would be happy
 

OntarioHunter

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I was referring to the news in Kabul, that might explain what you witnessed in the airport, people escaping Kabul.
Maybe. But many of the gals weren't wearing shower curtains. Seemed to be a lot of Syrian and Turkish folks. I think events in Afghanistan could explain the overwhelming military presence in Frankfurt airport on my way over.
 

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