The author’s Verny-Carron .470 topped with a Trijicon RMR
My good friend, Charl van Rooyen, had obtained an area on the south border of the Selous Game Reserve in late 2017. During the DSC show in January 2018, we sat down at his booth and discussed my coming over for a hunt. Charl explained that he had come up with a way to offer buffalo hunts in Tanzania for the same price (or less) than typical buffalo hunts in Zimbabwe and Mozambique, and no expensive charter would be required. This was intriguing to me both personally and professionally. I knew that if hunters could go to a quality area in Tanzania for a fair and affordable price, this would be a great hunt to promote.
Charl and I set some dates, and I called a couple of friends to see if they wanted to join me on the trip. One chose buffalo only, while the other decided to do a leopard-and-buffalo combo hunt.
Charl’s area is Nalika WMA and is situated on the southern border of the Selous. The 450 000-acre block has been the location of a major elephant study, and thus has had active anti-poaching for a number of years while it was not hunted. We saw absolutely no signs of poaching at all – no snares, no footprints, the elephants were abundant, etc. This is a community-owned area but there are no people living in the actual hunting area. An area payment is made to both the government and the community, and the same goes for trophy fees. So the community really benefits from the hunting, and it shows. Charl is committed to giving back to conservation, and giving back to the local community to show them that the benefits of hunting provide a very powerful tool in today’s Africa.
Not only does Charl’s company pay actual funds for hunting the area and each animal taken, they also supply the community with other valuables like thousands of bags of concrete for building, food staples and employment of locals. This is a shining example of hunting as conservation.
Charl’s camp is a very nice, traditional tented affair with huge tents, and a neat thatch mess area at the edge of a river. We regularly had elephants, hyena, monkeys, buffalo, jackal and other wildlife right outside of camp, and lions are not infrequent visitors.
I don’t know that I have ever been anywhere with more leopards and more hyenas. I saw hyenas in daylight seven days in a row, and fresh tracks are literally in every riverbed and on every road. Likewise, (male) leopard tracks are everywhere. The cats take readily to bait, stay on bait and are not shy at all about feeding in daylight.
Buffalo numbers are very good. Aerial surveys estimate 2 500 buffalo between this concession and the neighboring block, Mbaragandu, which Charl has for next year. There are many dagga boys around and herds of 50 to 200 are very common. One of my friends was interested in buffalo but after the second day he stopped looking for them. We spotted them on 12 out of 14 days.
On this trip I saw five of the largest buffalo bulls I have ever seen. We estimated that these five hard-bossed bulls were over 45″ and Charl thought that one, which had old, worn tips, might break 50″. I don’t know how big it was, except that it was HUGE. Numerous 42 ‒ 43″ bulls were seen.
The author’s friend, Scott, with a 45″ Nalika bull
The hunting started off with a bang. Charl had sent me photos of a nice leopard he had on bait for about 10 days before our arrival. The cat ate every day in daylight. My friend, John, and his PH, Danie, went in the first day, built a blind (a herd of 50 buffalo walked by as they were building). More than 45 minutes before dark (beautiful daylight) the cat came, leisurely walking down the dry riverbed and jumped into the tree and started eating. After a few minutes, a shot was taken. The cat landed with a thud under the tree but then he crawled into the thick riverine bush. Minutes later Danie stepped closer and saw the leopard lying some 20 yards away. It was badly hurt but it again slid into the green tangle before a shot could be taken. At this point, the other two PHs in the camp were called in for back-up.
They went in with lights, and eventually the cat began roaring from about 80 yards away. The bush was very dense and they smartly backed out, hoping the animal was roaring (not grunting) due to being hurt and dying.
We went back and spent the entire next morning searching but found no blood and no cat. The shot was on video and it initially looked good. However, on inspection, we saw that the cat was in an odd position, tearing at the meat, and we suspected that the shot was low or forward, or both. It was terrible to lose this magnificent animal.
It was interesting to note that about 11 minutes after the PHs had left the scene on the night of the shot, another male leopard (not the same one), jumped into the tree and fed on the bait, and later a female did the same. This was after all kinds of human activity, including two trucks parked right next to the bait. These cats are not human savvy.
They had another cat on bait a few miles away. Charl and I checked that trail cam while the guys were waiting for the original cat, and this cat was there regularly in daylight.
Two great buff taken in Nalika
Two great buff taken in Nalika
The camp was rustic but very comfortable
Those were the only two bait sites at the time. They were left over from another hunt just before we arrived during which the client had shot his daylight cat on day 4. This place is excellent for hunting leopards in daylight.
So after the leopard mishap, we went buffalo hunting. On the second afternoon, about 30 minutes before dark, John and Danie spotted a lone bull, covered in mud, in a small swampy area near a river edge. They made the stalk and brought him down. His horns measured 41,5″. Although the hunter who brought him down could have shot buffalo virtually every day afterwards, he passed up some absolutely beautiful old and some really big (mid-40″) bulls. To his credit, this was his first safari and he wanted to shoot a few plains-game animals instead of a second buffalo.
The other buffalo hunter in our camp passed up some beautiful old dagga boys on two occasions before he finally brought down a 45″ bull on day 6. He was interested in width, so this bull was what he wanted, although it didn’t have much in the line of bosses. He also shot a Niassa wildebeest and an olive baboon. He wasn’t looking for much else, but towards the end, he decided to try for a second buffalo. They found a beautiful old dagga boy in a dry riverbed but somehow he just totally missed. It happens to us all at some point. I know. I have been there.
I had to work a bit more for my buffalo. On day 2, Charl and I found fresh tracks and five miles later, we caught up with a herd in some pretty thick grass. We slipped in and out looking at bulls and cows but didn’t see anything worth taking. Then we heard a hippo, and things got a bit tense in the dense growth. Eventually, we got to the bank of a mostly dry riverbed, and there were 120 to 150 buffalo at about 80 ‒ 150 yards.
Charl pointed out an absolute monster (the one he thought might make 50″). We tried to go around them on the bank above with the wind, but we were cut off by a korongo full of water and hippos. Our tracker said the korongo went on for 3 km, so we couldn’t move that way. We got as close as possible on our bank and saw a fine-looking bull, about 43″, lying on the sand. When he got up and was the last of the herd as they moved off, Charl put up the sticks.
I knew I could shoot 80 yards with the Trijicon RMR red dot on my double in the wide open. However, just then I looked below us, and there was a hippo cow with a calf and a bull on the sand at 15 ‒ 20 yards away.
A healthy elephant population is proof of anti-poaching success
The gentle bank they used to get up and down was at my feet, and it was like a runway from them to us. We sure didn’t want to have a shootout with hippos, and since it was only day 2, we backed off and decided not to shoot.
Obviously a bit obsessed with the giant buffalo we had seen, we tried to find that herd for the next four days. I think we were on their tracks once or twice but the wind or high grass always obstructed us.
We had a number of other close encounters with buffalo without getting shots. We saw a number of old shootable bulls and some other really big bulls, but we never could get into double-rifle killing range or get a clean shot. If I had had my scoped .416, things would have been different.
Late in the hunt, one afternoon at about 1 pm, as we were driving along looking for a place for lunch, we came across a group of bulls. They ran over an open hillside and out of sight, so we thought we wouldn’t have much trouble finding them. We didn’t. We only walked a few hundred yards up to the ridge, and below us was a long valley full of buffalo! The bulls we saw were at the back of a huge herd that stretched for over a mile. The ridge we were on ran parallel to the bottom of the valley where the buffalo were. The bush was dense but we could just hear them, and occasionally see a few animals as they went through openings or popped out on the far hillside about 250 yards away. We saw one absolute tank of a bull with big bosses, probably 44″ wide with a deep drop – he was my dream bull. However, we knew that if we entered the dense bush at the bottom of the valley, we would spook the whole herd.
We decided to wait. We hoped that the herd would either come back our way in the late afternoon or feed over the far ridge in the open hills so we could make a move and get a shot. Charl, Danie and I moved up and down the ridge glassing different animals, hoping to catch a break.
Finally, below us, we saw two hard-bossed bulls feeding in a small clearing. We dropped below the ridge and got into position, but the bull we had targeted moved on into some brush. Charl told me the other bull was in the shadows facing us, and he was very old, but not huge. That’s all I needed to hear. I waited on the sticks and when the old bull stepped out and presented his shoulder, I took the shot and he crumpled, immediately bellowing. We all figured it was a spine shot. There was a lot of grass in the way (that was much taller than I thought), and I shot a few more rounds into any part of the bull that was visible to me. He wasn’t going anywhere but he kept moving, so Charl shot a couple of rounds as well.
It turned out that my first shot had actually broken both shoulders and was a good double lung shot. Our subsequent shooting was not at all necessary, but I was fine with pumping him full of lead and knowing he was done before we waded down into the tall grass. We had shot him from head to rear, but it is better to be safe than sorry with buffalo. He hadn’t moved three feet from the initial shot.
He was a great old bull – obviously not wide (about 38″) but old with worn bosses and a tank of a body. I would be lying if I said that I wouldn’t have rather killed one of the 45″+ bulls I saw but I love shooting ugly old buffalo bulls, and that is exactly what he was. I was 100% happy with him.
Charl and I also went over and explored Mbaragandu, the neighboring concession, and checked out the camp that is being erected there. The country here is much more open as it has been burned regularly for years, and we saw a herd of 200+ buffalo bedded right out in an open riverbed in early afternoon.
This area is at an elevation of about 2 100 feet and this makes a great deal of difference in temperatures. Nights were great for sleeping as they were in the 50s and days were generally in the mid-80s, so it wasn’t too hot. We did a lot of burning of high grass and I have no doubt that the buffalo hunting will be even better in September and October than during our August trip. There were three hunters that came in when we left and they all killed good hard-bossed bulls within four days.
My assessment of the area is that for a buffalo, leopard, hyena, hippo or any combination of these, this place is excellent. The plains-game numbers are not high. You will likely have the opportunity to take some plains game but that is not the reason to go there. We saw eland, impala, zebra, bushbuck, waterbuck, Lichtenstein’s hartebeest, warthog, Niassa wildebeest, duiker, Roosevelt’s sable, civet, porcupine and others but you have to work hard for plains game.
This is a safari area being run by a conservation-minded outfitter, who offers excellent buffalo hunts at very fair prices. This provides an opportunity for many of us who would otherwise never be able to enjoy a safari like this, to hunt in Tanzania. It’s wonderful when a test run on a hunt turns out to be even better than expected.
To book this or any other quality hunt, Tim Herald may be reached at email@example.com. His service is free of charge.
Tracking buffalo in the high grass is not for the faint of heart
The author “right” and Charl
van Rooyen with their old dagga boy
Gear for buffalo
As usual, I packed my trusty .470 NE Verney-Carron double rifle on this hunt. I topped it with a Trijicon RMR type 2 red dot sight. This small sight gives me precision shooting up to and beyond 100 yards with my double, and I can shoot with both eyes open and lose none of my vision and awareness in tight spots or, in the case of a charge, like one might with a traditional scope. The little unit is tough as nails, holds up to the heaviest recoiling guns, and has a battery life of four years of continuous use, which I find incredible.
I shoot 460-grain Cutting Edge Bullets Safari Raptors out of my .470. These are the most devastating bullets I have ever shot and I have used them on numerous buffalo, brown bears and scores of plains game. After a few inches of penetration, six petals sheer off in a star shape and cause an incredible amount of trauma, while the brass rear section, that is essentially a jagged solid, continues for the ultimate in penetration. I simply can’t imagine a better dangerous-game bullet.
On this trip I wore Kuiu Tiburon shorts and snap shirts every day and was thoroughly impressed. I sweat like a pig and the Tiburon line was very breathable and cool, and dried very quickly. If you hold the material up to the sun, you can see light coming through. I really liked the material’s stretching properties for comfort in movement. It is also very durable with a ripstop-like grid. The line is fantastic for active warm weather hunting and I know I will love it for early elk and turkey hunts. We walked 8 ‒ 10 miles some days and wearing the right gear definitely helped. ASM