Stories and Traveltips

ID #1197

A Buffalo Hunt in the Lowveld, Phalaborwa, Limpopo Province.

Fedmis is a fertilizer company on the western border of the Kruger National Park. Many of its employees grew up in the area and are enthusiastic hunters. A lively bunch, they are always on the lookout for an opportunity to “polish the boss’ marble”.

I was a manager at Fedmis Phalaborwa in the mid-80’s responsible for, amongst other things, security. One morning I was approached by the security chief -- I shall refer to him as Boet. Apparently an “alleenloperbuffel” (a mature buffalo bull that no longer remains with the herd) was wandering about the premises. He pointed out that it constituted a threat to the safety of employees working in the area. While not a hunter myself, I was reluctantly persuaded that the animal would have to be destroyed. However, because the citizens of Phalaborwa are notorious for their antics in this regard, I insisted that all the necessary documentation be in order.

After Boet had left I went on with my work. Since vigour is not a term I would use to describe him, I was surprised when he returned at about 15h00 that afternoon with all of the necessary documentation together with bakkies, trackers, 375 Magnum rifles as well as a colleague, etc. Yet I remained skeptical and, being the responsible person, insisted on accompanying them to ensure that nothing untoward happened. We dropped the trackers off on roads surrounding the wetland where the buffalo had last been spotted and retired to the entertainment area to await developments.

About an hour later a message was received that tracks had been spotted leading into an area containing tall reeds. Visibility was restricted to a few feet – clearly a hazardous area in which to pursue a cantankerous buffalo bull. The two hunters slowly made their way through the reeds trying to remain as quiet as possible – impossible under the circumstances – while I brought up the rear. The heat was oppressive and I could see beads of sweat on the back of Boet’s neck. After some time the two hunters separated. The sun was going down and it became obvious that what we were doing was becoming increasingly dangerous so I instructed Boet to withdraw and we retired to a termite mound from which to survey the area.

Suddenly Boet’s colleague shouted: “Hier kom hy” (Here he comes) and we heard the buffalo splashing through the reed-bed, after which it stopped. There was complete silence and no movement whatsoever. Standing on top of the termite mound, we scoured the reeds for signs of the beast. Eventually I noticed the tip of a horn sticking out from beneath a thorn (acacia) tree. In spite of being such a large animal, it was otherwise invisible. Boet had not spotted it so I stood behind him and, by aiming the rifle at the horn, was able to show him where it was.

Since all we could see was the tip of the horn, I was taken aback when he fired a shot. The buffalo came running straight towards us. Fortunately however we were standing on top of the mound so it ran below and past us into the bush. As it passed, Boet fired another shot.

I saw no evidence of it being wounded but the trackers started after it and picked up a trail of blood. But by now it was getting dark. We radioed for a front-end loader on which we could ride through the bush. By then it was however pitch dark so I ordered everyone out of the area, noting that we should return to finish the job the following morning.

I went home and slept in fits and starts, knowing full well that I was responsible for wounding a cantankerous buffalo where our employees were working. Clearly, if anything went wrong, I would be held accountable. Fortunately, nothing untoward happened.   At 05h00 the hunters picked me up and we drove once more to the area in question. Once again we dropped off the trackers on the road but there was no sign of the buffalo. Later I went back to my office, instructing the hunters to notify me when the buffalo was spotted.

At 11h00 the buffalo crossed a road and the trackers picked up the spoor. They followed him until he charged and was put down. Inspecting the carcass, it was discovered that both shots of the previous evening had hit their mark. The first had hit the tip of the horn and, tumbling, had passed diagonally through its body from left shoulder to right hindquarter. The second also passed through the body, from left hind-quarter to right shoulder. So the buffalo had charged 19 hours after sustaining two mortal wounds, and it took a further 4 bullets from high powered rifles to put it down.

Only afterwards did I discover how they had “…polished my marble”. Boet, his colleague and all of the trackers were in on it -- one for the trophy and the rest for the meat. Moral of the story

  • Wildlife in general and buffalo in particular are incredibly tough.
  • Don’t start hunting buffalo in the middle of the afternoon when the sun is going down.
  • Be skeptical of great white hunters who claim to know something about hunting buffalo, especially when their story sounds plausible. 

In retrospect, the buffalo was probably quite harmless. Needless to say, this was my first and last buffalo hunt. Alan McIver NFBuffalo

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Last update: 2014-05-14 14:11
Author: Alan McIver
Revision: 1.9

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