January 2008, J.D. Mason and myself booked a hunt with Jaco Oosthuizen of Ondjamba Safaris – Game Trackers Africa for a July 2009 hunt in Tanzania. Late in 2008, J.D., employed by Chevron, received a new job assignment which interfered with the Tanzanian hunt. At the Dallas Safari Club convention in January of this year, we asked Jaco if we could change the date to 2010 which Jaco did. J.D. then asked Jaco if he had any hunts that were available for June of this year; Jaco replied that he had some plains game hunting in South Africa which also consisted of 2 buffalo. Now, buffalo hunting is my passion and I have had all the hard luck possible on their pursuit! In 5 previous safaris to Zimbabwe and Tanzania with buffalo as the primary animal, I have just managed to get shots at, and kill, 2 buffalo so I was ready to try my luck in South Africa. We arrived in Joberg June 1 and traveled to Jaco’s safari camp in Borakalalo National Park and started hunting Tuesday, June 2. J.D. was hunting with Jaco and I was hunting with Eugene Visagie, a very fine and personable PH. The area consisted of mountains, lake, river and savannah. The park rangers said the buffalo usually hung out in the mountains and this is where we started our hunt. We had extremely cold weather, drizzle, overcast and constant variable winds. The mountains were covered with football sized boulders, lots of trees and underbrush, high grass and dry leaves which made silent walking impossible. However on Wednesday, Jaco and J.D. bumped into a herd of buffalo while the wind was in their favor and after an hour’s watch and stalk, J.D. took a very fine dugga boy with extremely heavy bosses. Eugene and I kept bumping buffalo which ran away in the brush before we could see them. We persisted all week, daylight to dark without getting a look at even one buff – consistent with my past hunts. However on Saturday while driving to a starting place, the sun had come up on a cloudless day and we saw a reflection of water which we did not know was there. We got out and checked a small spring with a slight 100 yard run-off and Wickson, Jaco’s head tracker picked up the tracks of 2 big bulls; we took up their track and after a couple of hours of following their erratic trail, Wickson suddenly froze, Eugene threw out the sticks and hollered “Shoot the front one!”. The bulls had already broke and were running full speed across our front. I just got a glimpse of a railroad tank-car sized animal running between 2 trees and behind some brush, threw up my .375 and fired a quick shot without even getting my face on the stock to see through the scope. I knew better than to shoot at a running unwounded buffalo but did it out of reflex in the heat of the moment. Eugene asked me if I hit him and told him no that I was sure I had shot over him due to the brush and hurried shot. We then took up the track again which proved very difficult due to the terrain, but Wickston persisted and an hour later, Eugene found a drop of blood and a few more after a hundred yards or so. Tracking was still very slow and difficult due to just a drop every now and then. The buffalo had also turned and started uphill. Eugene then called Jaco on the radio and he, J.D., and their game scout came and helped us track. We eventually lost the track, just scattered out and tried to jump the two old boys, but dark came without finding them. We went back to the spring the next morning to see if they had watered during the night and they had not. We looked until noon with no sign of the bulls and had to break camp and move on the next hunt for plains game. Jaco had one kudu permit which J.D. successfully filled with a huge 57 1/2″ bull two days before he got the buffalo. We each took very good black wildebeest, red hartebeest, springbok, and blesbok, and J.D. also took a very fine gemsbok to complete our hunt. We then returned home to the US. On June 23, I was checking our computer for emails and had one from Jaco. He wrote that the parks board had insisted he track and kill the wounded buffalo before some visitor could get hurt. Jaco was in Tanzania but arranged for Steyn, a fellow PH, Jaco Jnr. and Wickson to go to the park in order to lacate this wounded buffalo. No easy task awaiting them. After quite a search, the bulls were spotted, basically stumbled upon, but the two old bulls which returned to the top of the mountain, had other plans. They were not going to hang around, not with the smell of gunpowder and muzzle blast fresh in the memory. Steyn and the guys took up their trail and the two bulls ran down the mountain, went kind of crazy, ran back up the mountain, and down again. They then crossed a large savannah, a couple of miles later, crossed the river, and while racing across a smaller savannah, the wounded bull came to a stand still, and then just dropped dead! They discovered that the 300 grain Swift A-frame had gone beneath the heart and apparently disintegrated (I think the bullet was probably deflected by the heavy brush before hitting the buffalo). Wickson caped the bull and to my delight, has him in the salt!! So now I get credit for a one shot kill which took 2 weeks to take effect!! I hope to take many more buffalo, my passion, but I doubt I will ever have another hunt end as this one did.
~ Jim Ellison