A Professional Small Boy in Africa
Ron Berry bags his Cape Buffalo
"The crew" behind the buffalo, left to right: !Gho, Motsome, and Ernest. They are tracker, skinner, and community escort-guide. "Motsome" is pronounced "mot-soo-me" and means "hunter" in Setswana.|
PH Adam Young on the right, and I am peeking over the top of the buffalo on the left. Ernest snapped this photo.
Me with the 42" buffalo, and the Ruger 416 Rigby.|
Postmortem on the heart shot cape buffalo. See the hole in the left atrium? The exit wound out the right atrium was larger. GS Custom 380 grain .416 caliber FN at 2509 fps muzzle velocity. Range 75 yards. The bullet shattered the heaviest part of the shoulder, the humerus, before sailing on through in a straight line out the other side.
See the entire hunt at Ron's website.
The first week was in the Tuli Block of Botswana, courtesy of Roy and Charlotte Young of Tswana Safaris. Basie Riekert was the excellent PH. Basie (prounounced "Bossie") picked me up at the airport in Gaborone and drove me out to the hunting camp. Abraham was the tracker/skinner who performed ably when we got started the next day.
This hunting was for plains game. We started off stalking impala. We did this for six days. I took the other game incidentally to impala stalking: a 28" blue wildebeest bull (brindled gnu) on day one...a nice old warthog boar with big tusks on day two...a 52" kudu on day three...nothing on days four and five...and finally a 22" impala on day six!
I cannot explain the skittishness and difficulty of the impala, but they were good sport. Stalks usually started about 600 yards out. The stealth required in approaching them from down wind and through the brush allowed ambush of the remainder of the bag. Shots taken were from 75 yards to 200 yards on all of the above, with the 300 grain X-bullet in 375 H&H. The GS Custom .416 FN was saved for Okavango buffalo: more below.
Overall I was most impressed with the "grey ghost," the kudu. A trip for him alone would be worth it.
I was so addicted to impala by day six I had to take a second one to savor another stalk to up close brush shooting.
We were on the banks of the Limpopo River in a tent camp well served, and ranged out in a Landrover to spot tracks in the dirt or glass from afar and stalk. The Limpopo is the border of both Botswana and Zimbabwe with South Africa. We climbed a nearby kopje to check a leopard bait one day for a change of scenery. It was beautiful, perfect weather the whole time, frost in the morning and 70 degrees F and sunny for afternoons.
Roy drove me back to Gaborone and a commercial flight took me to Maun. I got to see Harry's Bar at the Riley Hotel where Capstick soaked up the booze and collected many of the stories he told so well. Harry Selby is still kicking around that town too, I was told. A chartered Cessna 206 took me from Maun out to the dirt strip in the Okavango.
Ronnie McFarlane was the owner/operator of Micheletti Bates Safaris who staffed my buffalo hunt. Ronnie is still PH-ing, and was guiding a party with a 28-day hunt that included three elephants and lots more. I was the little guy there, but got excellent treatment.
Adam Young was my PH. He is the son of Roy and Charlotte, incidentally, but working for the McFarlanes currently. Adam is another excellent PH it was my good fortune to encounter.
The first hunting day in the Okavango we set off in the Landcruiser (Toyota rules nowadays apparently.). About five kilometers out of camp we cut the trail of a buffalo herd. We dismounted from the bakkie: Adam Young, PH... Motsome, skinner and consumate jack of all bush skills... !Go, the bushman tracker and Landcruiser traffic director... Earnest, the "Community Escort Guide" who was required to accompany us, and brought up the rear behind me as we bent over and sneaked in down wind.
Within 300 yards we came upon a satellite bunch of five bulls that were accompanying a herd of cows and calves numbering about fifty. The bulls were closest to us and were all that I could see, only 50 to 100 yards away.
Adam set up the sticks and motioned for me to shoot. It was obvious which one he meant. That bull was about 75 yards away, standing broadside, grazing in some sparse brush and grass, a clear shot. The red god grinned.
The bull had just raised his head and looked directly at me (as if I owed him money) as I fired with no hesitation. He hunched up or bucked once at the shot and wheeled 90 degrees and staggered away 40 yards before collapsing on his off side.
The GS Custom .416 caliber FN expanding solid, 380 grains at 2509 fps, did not fail. It smashed through the bones of the left shoulder, the ribs and lungs, through the heart, and out the offside shoulder.
As we approached, Adam said "If he could get up he would, better put the insurance shot in his chest too," which I did, even though the death bellow had been heard already.
Within seventy minutes of setting out that morning, the hunt was over. He measured 42 inches, with good bosses and was in his prime, about 1800 pounds on the hoof. An anti-climax, but I was satisfied.
So I had to come up with something else to do on my five-day buffalo hunt. The next day my luck continued. Two hours was all it took to get to the mekoro and have Motsome and Earnest pole Adam and I out to the 23" red lechwe dispatched by a Texas heart shot at 150 yards. It did require a finisher through the neck at fifty feet, with the 375 H&H.
The remainder of my time there the bunch of us, Adam, Motsome, !Go, Earnest, and I just cruised around in the Toyota. We hauled a load of elephant meat and tusks back to camp the same day we did the red lechwe in. We were out looking for elephant mainly but spotting all kinds of game otherwise.
I developed a great affection for the crew, and was sad to have to leave. "Motsome" is the Tswana word for hunter, so I was told by Motsome when I asked him. He was a hoot.
I got to sit around the fire and drink Castle and chew the biltong in the evenings. Ronnie McFarlane was impressed with the GS Custom FN. He wanted to try something effective that would be easy on the rifling of his original Rigby 416 Rigby.
I left him the rest of my loaded ammo as I only fired three shots with it. The first was the sighter which was a single shot spot on at 100 yards. The Tuffpak did good. It held my zero. The sighter was shot at an envelope with a one inch spot inked in with a pen. The "target" was attached to the trunk of an umbrella thorn tree using a couple of thorns as stick pins. At 100 yards, I hit the spot. Enough sighting-in. However, that GS Custom FN passed completely through the trunk (16" diameter) in a laser straight path, continued on another 25 yards and passed through the trunk of a second tree (12" diameter at the point of penetration, off center), and carried on in the same laser straight path out the backside of the second tree. I was impressed. If there is any such thing as a "brush bullet," the FN might be it. The cape buffalo was killed with the second shot and the third shot was the prudent insurance shot.
A 375 H&H plus a 416 Rigby make a good combo. They have redundancy for backup of each other, and either one alone will do the duty.
GS Custom Bullets,situated in Port Elizabeth on the East Coast of South Africa,
manufactures solid copper, turned, monolithic bullets for hunting and sport shooting. These bullets
are used by hunters on several continents, hunting from the smallest of antelope to the largest
of dangerous game, using the smooth HP bullet, as well as the more popular HV, FN and SP bullets
with the patented drive band concept. GSC bullets are configured for the highest possible ballistic
coefficients. SP bullets are mainly used for sport shooting. All GS Custom Bullets are moly coated.