Dandy Dande Buffalo

Roger from Vieranas Safaris hunted for Buffalo during September 2009 in Zimbabwe, here is his story:
It all started two years ago when I was cameraman for my good friend and hunter Juha from Finland, who was after Buffalo and Hippo with the Bow then. On that trip we came in close on Buffalo and Hippo, but Diana did not smile on us. It was the adrenaline rush of getting in close that got me hooked. We started planning our return.

We booked our hunt for September 2009 with Bruce Grant Adventures and Ingwe Safaris in Dande South, Zambezi Valley. Our PH on this Zimbabwe hunt was Ian Rutledge.

Juha was after Elephant this time and I was on a Buffalo Cow, both with the Bow. On the third morning we were driving through Middle Chituwe, when we cut fresh tracks of a herd that had just minutes before crossed the road at about 7:00 am. Sitting on the Land-cruiser quietly, you could hear the herd moving through the thick bush. I asked Ian what he thought; he said lets give it a go.
I am superstitious to a degree, so I went up to the fresh dung on the road and rubbed some of it (which was still warm) under my arms and behind my knees, Juha just stood there with a smile shaking his head.
Our hunting group was made up of me; Juha, Ian the PH, Willy (Ian’s right hand man) and Vitto from the main camp plus Ifraim our game scout.

Ian and Willy started tracking and followed me with my Synergy in hand and Juha with the video camera. Willy estimated the herd to be a fair size of about thirty; he was able to follow the tracks with ease. Within three hundred yards we heard the herd grazing through the bush and the young Bulls fighting one another as they moved. All I could see was dark shapes moving through the bush and the adrenaline was rising! Ian whispered “we are getting close” I knocked an arrow, the herd started moving again. This scenario repeated itself for sometime, it felt like forever!

As we came out of the second ravine, there was a big dust cloud, the wind had shifted and the herd got scent of us. We quickly moved to the edge of a large depression leading down to the dry river and watched the herd move across. Ian’s knowledge of the area is to be mentioned, he did some quick thinking and had us walk around the herd in the direction of a spring in the Chituwe River, we had to get ahead of them with the wind on our backs and temperatures rising and luckily no tsetse flies in sight.

With Ian and Willy in the lead we went down the side of the depression on a game trail carved into soft sand and walked around to the left of the herd heading for where the road cross the river. The detour took us out of sight of the herd; we sighted them again once we were on the cliff above the river bed.

Lucky for us, our route to the spring was shorter than that of the Buffalo, but we had to move fast. Down a ravine and out again through the thick bush, I was busy making sure my bow did not get hooked up and I hoped Juha was getting some footage.

As we neared the spring, Willy spotted some warthog drinking, but there was no sign of the herd. The wind was in our favour, the cliff was steep and there was a nice big tree about two thirds down. The Warthog moved into the shadows on the other side of the dry river. Ian told me we should try and get down to the ledge next to a tree which would be a great ambush spot as there were not too many branches in the way.

Sliding down on my butt, I got in behind the tree with Ian in tow. I got myself into position and had one leg hanging over the edge and the waiting started. While waiting, I ranged a couple of spots in the river bed, the shooting lane was good, to the right was the tree and to my left were just branches. I knocked an arrow with a bit of a shake in my hand.

After a few minutes of sitting, the herd rounded the bend, talk about having luck on my side. The wind was still good and the herd came slowly towards the river on a well worn game trail. The spring was quite big with a puddle under us next to a big rock. As the herd came closer, Ian started pointing at possible cows, one of which was very wide at the back of the herd. Anyway it looked as if the herd was going to drink, but at the bottom end of the spring. Then they started to move back towards us and it was the first time that I really thought I might get a chance. My heart was pumping!

A big Bull moved right in under us at about seventeen yards, after a couple of seconds he ran off to the other side of the river, there must have been a back eddy of wind which made him jump, now the herd had split and my leg was asleep. The minutes passed slowly, it looked as if the herd was going to head off. Ian was already thinking about our next move, then one of the old cows turned and started walking back, as the branches were quite thick I made the most of our cover and moved on to my knees, very slowly. My heart rate had come down after a number of deep breaths.

Ian pointed at an old cow that was coming towards us, so I gave her all my attention. After the incident with the bull I knew I had to be quick, full draw, aim and shoot. Well the cow came in right below our hiding spot; she was about sixteen yards away, no time to use the rangefinder. With her head to the water she stopped by the boulder broadside. I started to go to full-draw as she looked up, so I froze, then she put her down again and went to full draw. Just as I took aim, she looked up again and I thought it’s now or never. The shooting angle was about forty five degrees, my arrow was on its way, all we heard was what sounded like a big pop and crack, and she then turned and ran about twenty yards, looking back in our direction. It felt as if her gaze was burning me.

The shot felt good, the cow turned and started walking and you could see the broadhead had exited more back than I thought. The cow then walked into the middle of the herd and after a couple of minutes lead the herd up the opposite river bank and into the thick bush. After the shot the shakes started, Ian whispered “don’t move!”

After a twenty-five minute wait, we all made our way down to the river. We found her blood in the water, Willy and the others started looking for the cow’s track, it was difficult as the herd had followed her. We followed the herds’ tracks, hoping she would leave the herd. As we came out of the river, Willy spotted the herd milling around close to a big baobab and so we moved back down the river bank about hundred yards, the wind was still in our favour.

Ian told me the cow had most probably bedded down and after ten minutes, Willy came back to tell us the herd had moved off, we heard them. With my second arrow knocked we slowly moved back up to the top of the bank to the Baobab tree. Willy was looking for tracks and about forty yards pass the Baobab, Vitto spotted the cow bedded down on the edge of the thick bush behind a fallen tree trunk. I dropped to my knees and drew, aimed for the part of the chest that I could see as she was quartering-on. The arrow was in the air, all I saw was the arrow clearing the trunk of the tree in front of the cow. She jumped up, turned towards us ready to charge, Ian was able to get a shot off turning the cow, she crashed through the thick bush to our right and went down within 20 yards.

After a couple of minutes when all was quiet Ian and I approached the downed cow, she was out and mine.

I was over the moon my setup was perfect, 90lb Elite Synergy with Dangerous Game Full Metal Jacket 250 arrow with weight tube, tipped with 180 grain Silver-flame German Kinetic Broadhead giving me a total arrow weight of 890 grain and 100 ft/lb Kinetic energy.

We must have walked more than five kilometres in two and a half hours; it was time for photos, back slaps and the recovery. Juha did a great video job and got it on camera which was a bonus. He just could not believe my luck.

On slaughtering back at the main camp, I saw my first shot was high in the lungs on the near side and just marked the opposite lung and stomach. My second shot was the deciding factor; bang in the heart and Ian’s shot than turned the cow clipped the left horn.

Hunting Dangerous game with the bow is the ultimate challenge for any bowhunter therefore I need to stress the safety aspect as the hunting group needs to get in that much closer giving you no margin for error. Make a point of sitting down with your PH on the first night and discuss the hunt protocol.

It was an awesome experience, especially as this was a free range Buffalo and one that will remain with me for years to come. Now I’ll start saving for the next one.

Even Africans get addicted to Africa!