By PH Jofie Lamprecht
Everybody has a favorite place. Your favorite table at a restaurant. A special spot on the beach. A spectacular view. Your hideaway in your home.
Mine starts with a 300-foot ascent up to a plateau overlooking the surrounding countryside. Vast vistas of the African bush. So different on the top compared with the below. Trees, bushes and grass have been preserved on the top for 850 million years when two tectonic plates of soft, red sandstone clashed, eventually slipping, and one was forced on top of the other. Dinosaur tracks from 200 million years ago and more recent Bushmen etchings mark its history.
This unique plateau is my favorite place.
Patrick joined me – our second safari together, buffalo being the primary target animal. Sable and eland were also on the list, but our foot-dragging quarry was what this hunt was all about.
Ascending the plateau for the first time, Patrick was immediately captivated by the aura this place has on people.
“Welcome to Jurassic park,” is what I usually say as we grind up the steep incline. Day One had seen us skunked by several herds of buffalo bulls – they all ran away from us in our clumsiness. Hunters too noisy in the thick bush.
Day 3: It was a cold morning with the golden orb of the sun just breaking the horizon. The Cruiser ground to a halt in thick red Kalahari sand, and the dragging spoor of bulls was evident for all to see. Soup-bowl-size tracks connected with drag marks between each of the big, old, short-legged buffalo bulls’ steps. We disembarked from the vehicle for closer inspection. The dung cold, but very moist. The urine had not sunk too deep into the sand, and the night-mice had not scampered over the tracks. It would not take too much effort to catch up with these bulls – but would we get a look?
Our Heym double rifles unsheathed – one ‘older’ 88B in .500 NE – mine called, “the Hofman” after a late friend of mine, and the new – 89B in .470 NE. Both rifles true masterpieces of German engineering, the 89B with more classic English lines – more my cup of tea, I have to admit, to my chagrin. The double ‘thunks’ as the large cartridges are dropped into their barrels made for this special chosen war.
We load essential gear and start our trek on the spoor up the road, the tracks following the two-track for almost a mile. Barrels were cold in our hands, muscles just starting to loosen from the night’s slumber and the previous day’s exertion. The spoor swings off the two-track into the bush, into a wide-open field that had been burnt clear the previous year by a lighting strike. I grab Gideon by the shoulder. He’s a master tracker with vast experience who I have known for over 30 years.
“Buffel,” I say in my native Afrikaans.
At a distance of approximately 200 yards I see the black mass of at least three buffalo busy grazing on the grass of the recovering field. With the wind in our faces, but no cover to put the stalk on our quarry, I decide to loop around the outskirts of the field to make use of the available concealment, burning valuable time while these buffalo are moving in the open. This gives the hunter more opportunity to get a view of their horns from more than one angle, preventing them from disappearing into the thick bush, which makes judgment very difficult.
We get around the cover of bush and I glass around. My heart sinks a little. Only one buffalo left cropping peacefully undisturbed in the grassland. We put the stalk on him. Going through the checklist – big body and hard bosses seen from the side, but how wide? Plucking grass with his teeth and lips, he slowly turns to show his genetics. Horns are much narrower than his body from behind. A solid pass on this buffalo. We can do much better in this area.
Patrick taps me on the shoulder and points – two bulls passing in the dense bush to our left. I silently nod, and we soundlessly sneak out of the close proximity of the first bull. The other bulls are going to be tough to get up to in the thick stuff now – and with the added complication of this other bull at our backs. Once clear of our first bull we advance toward the tracks of the bulls Patrick had spotted. I turn over the lead to Gideon – his talent in the spoor – mine the stalk, trophy judgment and the minor issue of a .500-carrying bodyguard. Gideon finds the tracks and turns on them, walking easily, looking 10 feet ahead at the sign left by our quarry.
I often wonder about concentration levels. The average child today lacks concentration for more than a few minutes at a time. In Gideon’s master class caliber – a whole day of tracking is not a problem.
The breaking of bushes, and crushing and crunching of grass, clear my thoughts as we silently and carefully approach. I take the lead from Gideon, Patrick closely following behind me – a shadow of my steps – alert and ready. The morning cold being broken with the welcome sun now warming our backs, as the thick sand-slogging turning this into an early-morning workout. The noise gives way to the sight of moving black shadows feeding noisily through the African savannah.
Having hunted Cape buffalo in five African countries – these Waterberg buffalo certainly had to be the hardest to hunt. Aware and alert – any noise brings them to a standstill – noses and eyes seeking the disturbance. We had to be ‘very quiet and very sneaky’ to get close – just like Elmer Fudd.
On the left, a huge mass of black filled my Leica binoculars. I go through the checklist. A white scar on the rump of the buffalo is noted. He is another pass – old, but not what we are looking for. I turn my attention to the third one. He is facing away from us. His horns hang well past his body from the back. An average Cape buffalo’s body is 40 inches wide – the benchmark for most buffalo hunters. Big body. But what about his boss? He disappears into the thick bush!
We loop around. Each step is taken carefully in the ‘corn flake’-strewn bush. Our feet are clad in very quiet Russell Moccasin boots. Concentration is absolute on our mission. We advance – slow and steady. With each step the bush is getting thicker. “K-dup k-dup k-dub k-dub,” we hear the advance from behind. With the wind in our faces, the first companion already checked got our wind. I look behind us, and here the bull comes in slow motion in the thick red Kalahari sand to warn his mates. My heart sinks. “This stalk is over,” crosses my mind.
We are close, 25 yards from the two bulls we followed. The third bull runs up behind us and circles around. The two bulls ahead of us have their heads up – their full attention on any potential threat. The third bull has made a full circle and is now with his comrades.
In the thick bush, movement draws my attention to my left. The black mass moves branches and pushes trees out of his way. He turns, and the white scar gives him away. I turn my attention to the ‘wide’ bull I had seen just moments before. I can see he is hard-bossed – polished to a red-black patina. He lifts his head as the first buffalo gets to him, and they touch noses. My hand reaches back, and Gideon instinctively passes me the shooting sticks – not really necessary at this distance, but always better to use them if you can for a safe shot. Patrick slowly slides his Heym 89B .470 onto his rest – safety quietly clicked off.
“The one on the left. Wait for him to clear the bush,” my quiet instruction. The bull takes another step forward in apparent annoyance at the first bull’s disturbance and clears the bush. A long second passes, and then the blast from the 500-grain Hornady DGX soft-nosed bullet breaks the silence of the otherwise tranquil morning. The bush erupts with breaking branches and grunting.
Bomb-shock aftermath in the bush. We wait. A black mass stands to our left in the bush. Our bull?
Rifles at the ready, rifle slings and shooting sticks left behind, we advance. The buffalo to our left seems healthy and flees the scene. To our right I see a buffalo down – after quick inspection my finger indicates where the next shot needed to go. Patrick did not waste time to use his right and left barrels. With no reaction to the large pieces of copper-lead that were discharged, it was safe to move closer to ensure that this hunt had come to a successful conclusion. Insurance shots a must whenever buffalo hunting, in this case a waste of ammunition, the first bullet being perfectly placed through the heart and both lungs. Hugs and high-fives all round. An amazing morning just got better.
We admire the giant-bodied bull, with horns to match.
“When can we do this again?” Patrick’s only question.
Everyone has a favorite place. This one is mine.
Authors note: Patrick’s Cape buffalo made the NAPHA top 10 list, proudly being the NEW #9 Cape buffalo of all time from Namibia.
Husband. Father. Big Game Professional Hunter. Photographer. Writer. Jack Russell Lover, and a trained wine expert and a passionate “foodie” who adheres to blue-ribbon standards of food and service. Jofie’s specialty is dream safaris custom-tailored to each client. He is proud to uphold the traditions of ethical and fair-chase hunting, and works hard to get his hunters close to the game. He has a special place in his heart for the children who come on safari.