Hunting Cape Buffalo
The Cape buffalo is considered by many hunters to be the most dangerous animal of the big five. Because buffalo carry bovine diseases that can be spread to domesticated cattle, they have been removed from large portions of Africa. They are rarely found in ranching areas, unless confined by high fences that will prevent their escape. Buffalo are animals of wild Africa, and thrive best in wild areas that are not heavily populated by humans.
The Cape Buffalo
The Cape buffalo, or Southern Savanna Buffalo, is found throughout southern Africa. Cape buffalo can weigh up to 1800 lbs. They are primarily grazers but will browse on occasions also. Their preferred habitat is bushveld, but Cape buffalo can be found in a variety of terrains and biospheres. During the day, they will slowly graze in the thick bushveld, and will typically lie down to ruminate during the mid-day hours. In mid to late afternoon, they will arise and continue feeding. At dark, they will typically group closer together in a herd to protect their young from lions.
Buffalo are a primary and preferred food source for the African lion, and lion prides will follow and stalk the buffalo herds as they wander. Some degree of caution must be exercised when in lion country, as the lions will never be too far from the buffalo.
Both male and female buffalo have horns. Males tend to have heavier horns, and sport large bosses with wear fissures that hunters refer to as the boss having “character”. Females can sport wide spreads and the world record buffalo is actually a female. The heavy bossed, wide-spread, with deep drop-down curled males are highly favored and sought after by hunters.
Hunting Cape Buffalo
Methods of Cape buffalo hunting vary. Typically, buffalo must drink every day. In areas with large herds, the herds are tracked from the waterholes or from where they have crossed the roads, until you catch up with them. The buffalo are then assessed until a target trophy is spotted. Once in range, the hunter will attempt to get a clear shot at his target. This style of hunting Cape buffalo can be both rewarding and can also be very frustrating. Because of the number of buffalo in the herd, it is very difficult to sneak within shooting range of the herd with so many watchful eyes, listening ears and skilled nostrils constantly searching for approaching danger. A saying has evolved that says “to shoot a big buffalo, one must look at a lot of buffalo.” Tracking the larger herds affords one the chance to glass over a good number of buffalo.
Another method of Cape buffalo hunting is hunting individual Dugga boys, or smaller bachelor herds. These are mature males that may have been pushed out of the herd by the herd bull. Tracking from waterholes and road crossings is again the preferred hunting methods. Because these bulls function on their own or in small groups, they have become adept at avoiding lions and are often more clever than the herd bulls. They are considered to be smarter and wiser from surviving alone and some hunters consider an old solitary Dugga boy to be the greatest Cape buffalo hunting trophy of all!
Cape Buffalo Hunting Rifle Calibers
For Cape buffalo hunting in Africa, a minimum caliber of .375 is required in most countries. A caliber of .416 or larger is preferred for the additional stopping power provide against a charging buffalo. Many hunters will chose to make their first shot with a quality soft-point cartridge, and then follow up this shot with solids to take advantage of their penetration power. A wounded Cape buffalo that disappears into the thick bush or long grass is among the most dangerous hunting situations in Africa. The buffalo is legendary for both his cunning and lead absorbing abilities. The name “Black Death” is well earned. The wounded buffalo will circle around or backtrack and lie in wait for his pursuers, and then suddenly burst forth on a head-on charge with certain rage and destruction his only intent. This is when you cannot be shooting “too big” of a rifle caliber.
Savanna, Nile and Dwarf Buffalo
There are other varieties of buffalo in Africa. The West African savanna buffalo is found in the northern portions of Cameroon, and westward towards the Atlantic. The Central African savanna buffalo is found mainly in the Central African Republic and Chad. Dwarf buffalo, or savanna buffalo, are found in Cameroon, northern C.A.R and west into Burkina Faso. These dwarf buffalo are found in dense heavily forested areas and are difficult to hunt due to the thick cover and close distances required to spot them. Nile buffalo are currently only huntable in Ethiopia. It is suspected that some remnant populations may have survived the recent wars in the Sudan, but there current status is relatively unknown.
When hunting buffalo in Africa, the majority of buffalo hunters pursue the southern savanna or Cape buffalo. This species is the least expensive and most readily available of all of the big five and most hunters begin their big game pursuits by Cape buffalo hunting in Africa.
- Scientific Name: Syncerus Cafer Cafer
- Male Average Weight: 700 kg (1,543 lb)
- Female Average Weight: 550 kg (1,213 lb)
- Longevity: 29.5 years in captivity
- Male Breeding Prime: 7 - 10 years old
- Female 1st Calf: 4 - 5 years
- Average shot distance: 40 - 120 yds