Friday, December 7, 2018

Buffalo hunt with Mark Sullivan





2018 Buffalo hunt with Mark Sullivan.

Mark Sullivan—Tanzanian PH and as my “tour guide” in South Africa
Basie Kuhn—owner Haakdoorn farm.
Angela—Basie’s wife.
Basie and Angela’s three daughters—Chene’ 17, Shyla 14, Sheena 10
Johan Biewenga—farm manager and South African PH registered for both plains and dangerous game.
Joey—Johann’s wife
Stefen Fouche’—1/3 owner of the African’s Sportsman magazine, there to get the story.
Andrew Tolmay—camera man and 1/3 owner of the AS magazine, there to video the hunt.
Clarence Voyles from North Carolina to hunt buffalo and plains game.
Steven—tracker.

Haakdoorn is about 3.5 hours drive north of Jo’burg, approximately 60 km from Botswana border and about 50 km out of the town of Thabazimbi

I arrived at 5:30 am SA time at OR Tambo airport and  Basie was there to pick me up.
A black police officer was a rude pain in the ass for my gun permit so it took 20 minutes and no one was there from the plane that was a hunter. He took my SAP 520 and went on break! I still would not pay for the pre permit.

Basie and I drove to Pretoria for some of KFC and Stefen picked me up for the trip to the farm as Basie had some business to take care of. Basie, then, flew his helicopter to the ranch and was there when we arrived. Stefen publishes the Africa’s Sportsman and Andrew the cameraman. Both are part owners in the magazine.

Clarence was to meet me in Dubai but he did not get the firearms permit from Emirates. They would not let him fly but refunded all of his money except for $400. He then booked a last minute flight on Delta and arrived at 10pm that day. Johan drove in to get him and they arrived in camp at 1am.

Mark was at the camp and also Angela, the three girls, and Joey. We went out in the afternoon for an impala for camp meat and for me to take a shot. 48 yards through a rangefinder and one shot just behind the shoulder anchored the impala. The impala ran 40-50 yards and collapsed. We followed an immense blood trail but only for a short distance. Entrance hole .60 caliber. Exit was nearly two inches! Amazing how such a small animal could run as far as it did with such a large hole in it and so much blood loss. The .600 is, for me personally, the medicine gun for impala.

Off for buffalo the next morning With Mark and I, along with the South African PH, Johan, and Andrew with his camera.. 15-20,000 acres of bush of varying thickness and a huge piece of plains grassland about 2x10 miles. We spotted several buffalo in the grass which was two feet high. When we determined the one I wanted we began stalking but the buffalo laid down in the grass. We approached to 15-20 yards and the buff stood up. He was side ways to us and Mark could not tell his horns to see if he was the buffalo we sought. Then he started to run, turned away from us, and looked back. Mark said he was the one and I took a quick snap shot and shot but shot over him—a complete miss. Two more shots were a waste as he was too far away. Off for 2-3 hours of followup. He was not wounded so we let him quiet down and went back to camp for lunch. Also, the wind was blowing not only hard but changing directions and the buffalo winded us many times. We would circle and the wind would shift and he would run. All of this took place in the huge grass plains. I haver never been able to take running or snap shots with a heavy double. Lack of practice, I guess.

After lunch we searched for a few hours and found the bull again. And again, he laid down in the grass after we watched him for some time, perhaps 1/2 to 3/4 of a mile distant. We began the stalk. Mark and I marked his location on a distant tree so we knew approximately where he was and we walked a straight line towards him. But, we didn’t know the distance he was at. The wind was blowing hard but towards us and not shifting so that was a big plus.

At 50 yards or so we were close enough to see a horn tip above the grass. Now we knew the distance and it was a matter of time until he faced us. Mark and I walked very slowly through the grass, as quiet as possible, accompanied by Johann the SA PH, and Andrew and his camera. 50 yards, then 40, then 30, then 20. A few more steps and the buff sensed something. He stood up to face us. Mark identified him as the buff we were after and said, “Take him.”

During the stalk I was thinking to keep the bead low in the shallow V of my 1914 vintage John Wilkes double rifle in the iconic .600 nitro express caliber. Snap shooting causes me to take a large bead in the V and shoot high. Now the time was here. It was now or never. A miss or wound in the late afternoon would give very limited time for a stalk and followup. Nightfall could cause us to lose him and have to take up the spoor in the am. The buffalo could be anywhere by then. In retrospect I would have liked to shoot for the brain as that is the classic Sullivan trademark. 

The 16-pound .600 came up to my shoulder quickly and I took a fine bead on the center of his chest and pressed the rear trigger. (I have always shot the left barrel/rear trigger first for 25 years. It is now a reflex. When the rifle is raised to my shoulder I slip the automatic safety to off as I place my finger on the rear trigger. When the rifle is at my shoulder, it is ready to fire). The buffalo’s rear legs collapsed and he fell instantly. My finger was now on the front trigger but I knew he was not going anywhere. I reloaded the empty barrel just in case the unimaginable happened but when the rear legs collapse as they did a spine hit is evident.

A moment later Mark and I moved around and approached the buffalo from the back side. He was breathing so I put an insurance shot down from the top of his shoulder but it was really not needed. He was an amazing buffalo. Huge bodied—perhaps 25% bigger than I have ever seen in the past ones I have shot. The horns and boss were amazing to see close up. From the distance when he was first spotted he was estimated to be 42 inches. I have shot several buffalo but none had measured 40 inches.

We rolled him over to the small clearing he was in and placed him for photos. Back in the camp’s skinning shed the workers recovered the two bullets. The first shot hit the spine and was slightly belled at the nose. Both bullets lost three grains—900 down to 897. The insurance shot was not deformed at all. Now, the calipers came out for the measurement of the horns: 43 1/4 inches and the boss at 14.  

To reflect on the experience and to compare the buff I have shot in Zimbabwe: there is no doubt hunting in South Africa has a different flavor than my beloved Zim (after the hunt I would fly to Zim for my 14th trip there). SA does not have the feeling of wild Africa but on a large ranch fair chase hunting is still a challenge. I have hunted ranches in Zim (Dingwall and Marakanga) and had great experiences there as well as several in SA. 

Basie’s ranch is a huge piece of real estate. I forget the exact hectare amount, but I would guess 15,000+ acres or about 25 square miles. We walked for hours, and drove, too, and did not see a fence after we left the camp area. There is a border fence and also a fence around the living areas but the land is open and wild, both wooded and bush and the large grass area. Plains game abounds as are many shootable buffalo. As in SA, I have shot sable on a ranch in Zim and three consecutive years hunted a ranch in southern Zim for plains game and leopard. It was not “put and take” by any stretch of the imagination. While some may find fault with my hunting there I will defend it as fair chase and did walk my tail off, both on my hunt and when a friend wounded a buffalo at 8am and the chase took all day up until the very last light at 6pm. 

I also know having Mark Sullivan as my PH will begin another debate and stir some emotions but I will stand by these words: Mark is one of the finest gentlemen I have ever known. He knows Africa, the black population, the animals, tracking, and all aspects of hunting dangerous game. In addition he has a great sense of humor, is honest-ethical-truthful, can drink with the best of them, and is a true American patriot with a deep sense of God, family, and country with a strong conviction of borders, language, culture, and the conservative ideals that made America the envy of the world. And, of course, his ability with a double rifle is legendary. I am proud to call him my friend and hope to hunt with him again.

Basie’s Haakdoorn Safaris is absolutely the best and most comfortable hunting camp I have ever been in. His family is actively participating in the operation. His wife, Angela, and their three daughters are there riding horses, preparing the meals, and fun company, etc. The game is managed with limited take off so the animal populations remain stable. Basie forbids shooting from a vehicle. The game available are buffalo, giraffe, kudu, roan, gemsbok, hartebeest, impala, warthog, sable, blue wildebeest, and the bird shooting is fabulous. While many hunting operations will state, “Come as a client and leave as a friend” I can attest this to be true in my experience there. I will return for another buffalo next year. Haakdoorn Safaris has my highest recommendation. 

If any of you gents out there wish to join me next year, please contact me. If a few of you would like to go on a small group hunt shoot your buffalo with my .600 we can “make a plan.”

Thanks for reading this.

Cal

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