Few other game animals are held in higher esteem as a worthy hunting adversary than the African Cape Buffalo. The sheer thrill of hunting this mountain of muscle and attitude is unrivalled and quite addictive. Buffalo are similar to cattle in that they are herd animals, preferring the open savannah where grazing and water is plentiful. They tend to graze the cooler parts of the day from early morning and evening into the night and seeking shade as it gets hotter during the day.
Both sexes have horns, with males developing the much desired gnarled bosses as they get older. Despite their size, they are extremely well camouflaged in dense cover. Their eyesight and hearing is quite poor but their sense of smell is excellent. It is much harder to get close to a herd of buffalo than solitary bulls.
Buffalo are generally hunted on foot and this is what makes them dangerous, particularly when wounded or chased. Often trackers or game scouts will pick up fresh tracks at waterhole's or across roads. Older bulls tend to separate from the herds and form small bachelor groups often called Dagga boys (meaning mud boys in Swahili).
In the Caprivi, these big Dagga boys love to hide up during the day on islands in the Dzoti hunting concession, surrounded by swamp and reeds, before venturing out as night falls, to raid the locals maize crops. Needless to say the local people are very keen for paying hunters to take out these night raiders and provide them with fresh meat!!
The best shot placement for buffalo is to hit vital organs, hopefully breaking bone somewhere in the process. Any experienced PH should advise to go for the "boiler room". Very few shots, regardless of calibre will pull a mature bull to the ground unless the shot hits the spine. If in a herd, the wounded animal usually breaks away and heads to thick cover. Buffalo are one of the only animals that will purposefully circle back onto their own trail to "hunt" and lie in wait for their pursuer. Usually they will circle back on their trail near an anthill, a fallen tree or any area that provides decent cover.
Buffalo hunting and their dangerous nature when wounded has been documented by all the great white hunters and on various video footage. BUT BE WARNED - each situation is unique and buffalo are one of the most dangerous animals when wounded. Despite their size they are extremely quick and cunning at hiding, as they remain absolutely still until the hunters are right upon them.
Despite their size, Buffalo are excellent at blending in and when wounded they are notorious for doubling back onto their blood trail to surprise their attackers.
Most PHs swear by the .375 H & H as a starting point, with the .416s & .458s being a good compromise on price and power. Some hunters will load a soft-nosed round for the first shot, followed by solids as the animal moves off. Remember, you want to do as much damage as possible with your first shot and heavy grained, good quality soft-nosed bullets are essential.
Buffalo are a thick-skinned animal. Many people have killed Buffalo with a well placed shot from .270s and 30-06's. In most African countries the legal minimum calibre allowed to hunt Buffalo is the .375 H & H. However, with Buffalo you can never have too much gun, provided that you the hunter, can handle the recoil with confidence. If you can afford it, a well oiled gleaming double rifle packing 500 grains of lead would be the classic preferred choice.
Trophy size judgment on buffalo is quite easy but remains an individual choice. Old lone bulls usually have worn horns with characteristic gnarled bosses. The sheer menace and presence of these bad-tempered old boys make for an excellent hunt and well-deserved trophy.
A good set of horns starts with a thick heavy wide boss, running outwards and downwards (the deeper the curl the better) well past the ears before curling upwards and back in again. The points then raise upwards and backwards, the higher the better. As a rule, the further past the ears the outer upward curl of the horns are, the better the trophy. In fact, Rowland Ward measurement is based upon the spread of the horns while SCI uses this measurement as supplemental information.