Reflections of a Cape Buffalo Hunt in Tanganyika

Poss Pull quotes:

  1. In Namibia, as well as some other African countries, it is not permitted by either law or the ethics of the individual to shoot an animal at the water.
  1. He had run clean over the large type of bush that I would not drive over in my Land Cruiser…
  1. “You only stop shooting at a buffalo five minutes after he has dead,”

1953 – 2010 The tale of Two Buffalo Hunts

Reflections of a Cape Buffalo Hunt in Tanganyika, July 1953.

By Scott Petty Jr.

While I was on a safari in Tanzania in 1953  with my parents and PH Bunny Allen of Nanyuki, Kenya I experienced my first Cape buffalo hunt in Africa.

We left our tented camp, which was located in the Rift Valley south of Lake Manyara and walked into the swampy and jungle area close to the Rift Wall.
The day before, we had scouted the area for buffalo and had come across a herd and had actually been charged by a cow.   I was able to shoot at about eight feet when she came out of the undergrowth toward us. My dad was with us on that hunt but decided the next day that he would let Bunny Allen and me hunt the buffalo alone.  We had our group of trackers, gun bearers and helpers and were walking through the jungle area when the lead tracker spotted a small herd of buffalo.

After easing through the jungle-like cover for a few more yards, we spotted a large Cape buffalo bull through an opening in the jungle canopy.  I was told that this was a bull that I could shoot, and being 16 years old at the time I became quite excited.  
The hole through the jungle growth was quite low and I was able to shoot from a kneeling position.  Having a double rifle at the time and been told to shoot more than once at the Cape buffalo, I proceeded to take aim and pull the trigger on the first shot, and the second trigger for the second shot, and found myself lying flat on the ground after that.  I thought I had seen the first shot hit the buffalo and quickly got off the second shot, and the recoil of the .470 NE Rigby double rifle was more than I was prepared for in that kneeling position. After I recovered from the surprise landing and stood up, the group seemed happy.

They felt that I had made a good shot and therefore we would wait a reasonable amount of time, which I think must have been at least 30 minutes but seemed forever.  After that we worked our way to where the buffalo had been standing, approximately 25 yards away, and found the first signs of blood.  The trackers then began following the buffalo through the thick cover. We went down a well-beaten trail until all of a sudden the lead tracker held up his hand and we all came to a stop.

As we waited, the tracker told Bunny Allen that the buffalo was very near as he could hear the flies.  This created a little more tension, and we began slowly easing forward, till we spotted the buffalo lying dead to the right of the trail but facing it. It seems that the bull had run about 10 or 15 yards further down, turned and circled back and lain next to the trail waiting for us.  Fortunately, my two shots which had hit the animal less than a foot apart had done the trick, and he was dead. But I will forever be amazed at the strength and cunning ability of a Cape buffalo to prepare to ambush our group.

Next we went back to our camp and met up with my mom and dad. Dad brought his camera – a Leica with Sumicron 50 mm lens f2 with Kodachrome 25 slide film back to the edge of the thick growth, and we waited for the caped-out buffalo for pictures. (A picture is included along with a photograph of our trophies from that 1953 Safari which was my first taste of Africa.  Numerous plains game, along with a lion and black rhino had been taken.  Nothing was as exciting as the buffalo, and that shoulder-mounted Cape buffalo still hangs proudly in our home today.)

On my most recent hunt in August of 2010 with PH Jofie Lamprecht in Namibia, I was able to relive the thrill of hunting the Cape buffalo.  With my wife Eleanor at my side and PH Jofie leading our group, we were able to stalk and take an extremely large Cape buffalo.  Believe me, there is nothing like it.  Now, some 57 years after my first Cape buffalo experience, I have a second fantastic trophy to place in our home.  More importantly, I have a renewed enthusiasm for hunting the Cape buffalo in Africa, as well as many more fond memories to savor and enjoy.  Most importantly, these buffalo hunt memories were shared with my parents on the 1953 safari and with my wife, Eleanor, on our 2010 safari.

Scott Petty, Jr – Texas

September 12, 2010

Texas-born Scott Petty Jr is a member of many professional organizations including the Society of Exploration Geophysicists, American Association of Petroleum Geologists, the United States Animal Health Association, Exotic Wildlife Association and the Texas Wildlife Association. Scott is currently serving on the Board of Directors for Texas Land & Mineral Owners Association, and is a member of The Explorers Club.

Reflections of a Cape Buffalo Hunt in Namibia, August 2010

By Jofie Lamprecht

We had glassed and turned down in excess of twelve buffalo bulls in four of 15 hunting days. We got close, less than 30 yards in some cases, but had seen nothing that I thought we should take so early in the safari.

“Scott, if we are patient, we will get a real monster in this area,” I repeated several times over these few short days. Every time we got onto bulls I would look back at an expectant Scott, .375 H&H ready to go…

“We can do better,” I’d say. His response was always a simple, “Ok,” as he unloaded his 350-grain Norma P.H. cartridge, and we would slog through the thick red sand back to the truck.

As my father, the late Joof Lamprecht, always said, “If you don’t trust the PH that you are with, you should not be there!” Trust is a novel concept in this day in age. There was a definite trust I felt with Scott, and an easy-to-get-along-with “no problem” attitude that I loved for hunting clients to have.

On the fourth morning of the hunt we had marked two pairs and two single sets of buffalo bull tracks, planning to return to them later. We had a lot of wind in this week of August 2010, and it was difficult to see if tracks were fresh or not after only a few hours of strong wind. We would then go to our desired destination and work our way back, tracking down the buffalo that had crossed the road hours before, the narrow sand road forming the invisible, but strictly adhered to, boundary of our hunting area.

We reached our goal for the day, a water point in the furthermost reaches of the hunting area which was secluded and quiet – the way an old Dagga Boy likes it.

When we were several hundred metres from the water, my hunting assistant told me to stop and cut the engine of the 1978 Toyota Land Cruiser. For a few seconds it was quiet. Then, “Grab your gear, LET’S GO!” he said. I trust my hunting assistant with my life and knew that something big was about to happen – either buffalo or sable. Quickly we grabbed our gear and walked with the wind around the water. We stopped with the wind perfectly in our faces, several hundred metres from the water and waited.

In Namibia, as well as some other African countries, it is not permitted by either law or the ethics of the individual to shoot an animal at the water. We patiently waited for the buffalo to finish, with a plan to pursue him away from the water.

And wait we did – we caught brief glimpses of him as he went from water to the salt lick and back again, for 45 minutes! Through the thick, Waterberg cover, I could make out the shape of a large-bodied buffalo bull, massive bosses, but I was unable to see his spread. I had no idea of what was to come.

We waited behind some cover, when suddenly the buffalo decided to walk away from the water with the wind.

This meant he was walking straight towards us…  With our rifles checked and ready, shooting sticks in hand, we watched as he approached.  He first angled to the right and then, as he appeared, swung to the left again. My legs started trembling when I saw the width of his horns. This black brute, scarred with age, was laboriously dragging his hooves through the red Waterberg sand.  His head was hung low while he made his way to an unknown secret hide-out in some thick bush not too far away.

He disappeared behind a bush and we made our move to advance. We were now out from behind our cover, and the shooting sticks went up toward a clear shooting lane that he was to cross. As he appeared in the opening, I made a bovine-type call, bringing the bull to an alert halt. His head swung, covering the vital area on his shoulder with an outstretched horn. Scott pulled his aim to just behind the curve of the horn as the shot went off.

While standing there, it felt as if Scott was taking seconds to shoot. In retrospect, watching the video, the call and the shot happened almost simultaneously.

The bull was so close that with the naked eye I could see lung blood spewing from the entry wound.

“Shoot again!” was the instruction as the bull made a 90 degree turn, running around our position, “hunting” his attackers.

Then we heard the loudest sound in the African bush: “Click.”  It was the only sound that came from the rifle – Scott had short-stroked the long .375 H&H action, and our buffalo was gone.

“I think you have hit him hard, we need to give him 20 minutes for safety,” I told Scott, relieved that the shot hit a good vital area, and annoyed at “dry-firing” for the second shot. “We will find him,” I told him, while I called for the truck.

Waiting 20 to 30 minutes is standard procedure for wounded buffalo no longer visible, and I always need to mark my watch after the shot because it feels like hours before 20 minutes passes and the follow-up on a wounded buffalo starts.

Magazines refilled, rifles re-checked, non-essential gear left behind, we went to where the bull had been standing and slowly followed his tracks. There was a lot of blood, specifically lung blood. This was a good sign, but I have seen buffalo go miles with a relatively decent lung shot. So I led, Scott followed, then our tracker and the rest of the hunting party brought up the rear.

We walked carefully, placing each step deliberately but quietly as we scanned the thick bush in front of us. We had not gone 100 yards when the first signs started showing that this bull would not be far ahead – dead or alive. He had run clean over the large type of bush that I would not drive over in my Land Cruiser – the bush was flattened and destroyed. Dead slow, we proceeded, every shadow and dark spot scrutinized, awaiting any second for the bush to erupt and a one-ton upset melanistic bovine to come and settle the score with his pursuers.

I rounded another flattened bush and saw a shadow close by. Slowly picking up my binoculars I confirmed that it was indeed our buffalo.

“Shoot again,” I instructed Scott, who stepped into place beside me and put an insurance shot in.

“You only stop shooting at a buffalo five minutes after he has dead,” is the hunting motto I was raised with. I advanced on the bull lying on his side – a good sign – and approached him from the tail end. With a careful push with my foot on his hind end, then carefully walked to his head and tested his eye, rifle ready, safety off. Our bull was stone dead.

There was first joy, elation, and then emotion when we saw what we had accomplished. This bull was in the class my hunting team likes to call “bos-breeker” in Afrikaans, or “bush-breaker” in English. This refers to their enormous horns, both in spread and in mass. He was a magnificent sight.

After the dust had settled, and the hand shaking and back slapping was done, I had the whole hunting party withdraw and stand some distance away. It is always nice to let the hunter spend some time with a downed trophy alone, to appreciate it, to feel it. Those moments that will be cherished so long after the hunt is over. After going to direct the truck through the thick bush I quietly returned to Scott and Eleanor. They were standing, stroking the horns of this unlikely beautiful beast and, as Scott turned to me, I saw the raw emotion in his eyes. This makes hunting and the stress of doing so in a National Park with all the rules and bureaucracy worthwhile. Another memory that will be with them, and me, for the rest of our days.

It took five more days to secure a sable that passed muster. We battled wind, hunting area boundaries, and frustration, but finally took a magnificent ancient specimen that will hang proudly in the Pettys’ splendid trophy room.

About the trophy: Scott’s bull had a mighty 46½ inch green-measured spread and measured 110 SCI points. This bull is the #7 ranked in the Namibia Professional Hunting Associations top 10 trophies of all time.

Husband. Father. Big Game Professional Hunter. Photographer. Writer. Jack Russell Lover. Namibian-born Jofie is based in Windhoek, Namibia’s capital city. He founded the charity known as C.O.V.E.R. – Conserving Our Valuable Elephant & Rhino that pulls together all of Namibia’s conservation organisations to combat poaching, specifically of elephant and rhino, using advocacy, tracker training and cultural preservation, anti-poaching unit training and drone technology. 

 

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