It was the first day of what was to be a wondrous bowhunt in South Africa’s Eastern Cape. I had returned to hunt with my friends, owner/PH Andrew Renton and PH Marius Potgieter of Kei River Safaris ((http://www.keiriverhuntingsafaris.co.za/; Tel: 027 43 831 2024; Andrew mobile; 027 82 651 4005; Fax 027 43 831 2024), for the second time. Last time it was a plains game hunt extraordinaire. This time it would be the same, but with a bit of a twist. This time, we’d target Cape buffalo with the bow.
Kei River Safaris is my kind of operation. It’s small and specializes in personal service. Andrew and Marius have hunted their area all their lives, and both are extremely accomplished both as hunters themselves and as PH’s. The lodge, food, and equipment are all 5-star, and bets of all, you get all this at a reasonable price. Andrew specializes in offering hunts catering to the hard-working American hunter, the man that cannot spend five figures on a hunt but wants a $4,000-$5000-bracket hunt in which he can collect a mixed bag of high-quality plains game with no limitations on horn length or record book score, which in most other instances would mean he would have to pay much more in terms of trophy fees. On top of that, Big 5 hunts are available, too, though that ratchets up the cost. They also prefer to hunt in the “walk & stalk” style, which suits me perfectly, though you can hunt from blinds as well if you choose. Andrew has incredible connections with local landowners and game ranchers, so locating top-end animals for clients is not a dream, but a reality. Marius hunting philosophy sums it up best: “Good is not good enough.” They want the very best for their clients, and it shows.
Here’s why I chose South Africa for my buffalo bow hunt. Decades ago I killed several buffalo with a rifle in Botswana and Zimbabwe, so I know the drill. Today, however, that hunting is out of my league, price-wise. In South Africa, the cost for a buffalo hunt depends on the size of the bull taken. A representative 33-35 inch buff with hard bosses will run about $10,-000. Compare and contrast this with buffalo hunts in other southern Africa countries, which almost always include daily rates, minimum hunt days, and a trophy fees. For example, a typical Zimbabwe buffalo hunt today – the most economical available outside South Africa – will run about $900/day, with a 10 day minimum, plus a trophy fee of about $4000. Add on to that the added expense of getting there (Much more than getting to the Eastern Cape), a 2 percent government levee on both daily rates and trophy fees, the need for malaria and yellow fever vaccinations, and more. And the fact of the matter is, success is not guaranteed. Andrew sells his buffalo on a 3-day all-inclusive package that can be done both separately or added onto the standard plains game package.
OK, first things first. I knew this had been done before, many times, but still I was a bit nervous. By the time I reached the Cape I had already heard of 3 people getting stomped by buff in southern Africa this year, and as Marius warned me as we began our stalk, “It doesn’t take much for this kind of thing to go from way cool to nightmare, so pay attention.” That would not be a problem!
Months before I left I set up my equipment. After speaking with people who had done this as well as both Andrew and Marius I chose an 80 lb. Hoyt RKT -- with no small measure of help from Hoyt’s Kevin Wilkey and Jeremy Eldredge. For arrows I went with Easton Full Metal Jacket Dangerous Game arrows. I shoot 28 ½-inch arrows, and the 250 size shafts weigh 17.2 grains/inch. By adding a 9 grain X Nock, 75 grain Brass X HIT Break Off insert, and four-inch fletches, total raw arrow weight is a tick over 600 grains. Since buffalo can only be hunted with a single forged, two-bladed head that has its cutting edge beginning at the tip, I went with 200-grain Phantom SS two-blade broadheads with .040-inch resharpenable main blades. My total arrow weight was 816.2 grains. The bow lobbed them off at just 218 fps, but in this game it is all about the momentum provided by a big shaft for deep penetration. The initial K.E. value was 86.15 ft./lbs. -- which I hoped would be plenty!
When we found the animals, the bull we wanted was the ideal candidate. He was an old warrior who did not like to be around other buffalo. When they got too close to him he’d fight them, and they didn’t want any of that. So mid-morning there he was, contentedly alone and feeding along the side of a steep ridge. Marius and I, together with another PH and tracker (and two very large backup rifles!), circled to get the wind right, then climbed carefully above him. It may have been possible to close the gap over the hill that separated us through the thigh-high brush, but Marius wisely chose to let him come to us.
It took seemingly forever, but soon the bull was just inside a thorn tree I had ranged at 20 yards. The crest of the hill and tall brush hid us, and I let him walk slightly past until he gave a very slight quartering-away shot. What happened next astounded me.
The shaft struck the bull perfectly behind the front shoulder. He took two steps forward, then turned and gave us that “You owe me money!” buffalo look so aptly described by Robert Ruark decades ago. When his nose came up I thought, “Here he comes!” Instead, he dropped his head, wobbled slightly, and rolled over, graveyard dead. He had not traveled 5 yards after the hit! The arrow had penetrated to the fletching; when the bull rolled you could see it sticking out the other side.
Are you kidding me?! What a tremendous beginning to what proved to be a superb hunting trip. Later in the week Marius -- who holds both the current Safari Club International bowhunting record book No. 1 and No. 6 Cape bushbuck, slid me close enough to arrow a bushbuck of my own that will go No. 6 in the book. The day before, Andrew, Marius and I killed a blesbok that ties the current SCI No. 1! Add to that a nice Cape kudu taken from a blind after five days of stalking to under 40 yards of monster bulls each day without being able to seal the deal due to incredibly thick cover and swirling winds, and I could not have been happier.
Next year’s hunt has already been planned. I want one of those big kudu bulls, and another shot at bushbuck. They may not be big in size, but they are as challenging as any Coues deer I have ever tried to arrow, and that’s good enough for me.
I can’t wait!