As hunts are conducted in the rainforest, the hunting methods are similar to those used for hunting bongo.
A normal buffalo hunting day will start by leaving the camp early morning and looking for the tracks of a solitary buffalo bull. The reason for this is that if one uses dogs on the hunt, they will normally bay a cow or a calf. This wastes time and makes following herds of buffalo a dangerous practice.
On the other hand, if you are hunting the savannas and open areas, you can always follow a group of buffalo into a savanna area. Your primary objective would be to find them in the savanna, therefore no dogs are used in a savanna hunt.
Hunting these savanna areas can be very rewarding. The ideal would be to sneak into a vantage area, where you have a view of the open savanna. Sometimes high positions are used to get a better view of the entire area. A big advantage is that you can see the buffalo better and you have more time to judge age and to properly evaluate the trophy quality.
Throughout the rainforest there are some salt licks that provide a very good starting point. We visit these salt licks often to see if there is any activity, and also use trail cams at the salt licks to determine buffalo activity. These trail cams have provided us with invaluable information in the past, confirming the size of the herd and the age of the buffalo, as well as the trophy size. It also gives you an idea of when the buffalo are actively moving around.
As discussed earlier, forest dwarf buffalo are much more aggressive than Cape buffalo. I really think these small diminutive buffalo are devoid of any sense of humour! Sometimes when they sense that you are close, they actually seem to start hunting you instead of the other way around. They normally chase the dogs and, of course, the dogs will instinctively run back to you for protection. In the end, the buffalo is running straight at you. As soon as they see you, the chasing of the dogs changes into a full-out charge!
Clothing and equipment are exactly the same as you would use on a bongo hunt, which I discussed at length in my previous article. As soon as you step into the rainforest, the equipment, clothing and protection are the same.
You do, however, always need to be ready for any unforeseen circumstances.
As in the case of a bongo hunt, the dogs do not track the buffalo, the pigmy trackers do that. The dogs only pick up on the animal once it moves. Hopefully you are lucky and you get the buffalo bayed – and have time to see that it is an old enough male, and get a shot at it. It is much more dangerous for the dogs to bay a buffalo, because the animal will fight the dogs, whereas the bongo normally is a little bit more placid. Rather than fight the dogs, it will look for a way to escape.
Again, as is the case with a bongo, you need to get to the animal as quickly as possible once it has been bayed. Many a time before you actually reach the bay area, the buffalo will have broken the bay and disappeared into the forest.
As far as calibres go, the best for these buffalo is a .375 and upwards. It does sometimes help having a bigger calibre available, especially when these aggressive little buffalo charge you. Just remember that you can get a distance shot off a high seat or in an opening of up to 100 m, and for that you must be able to take the shot. A rifle with a quick-release scope-mount configuration is always a good idea. This gives you the possibility of using open sights in the rainforest, and use the scope when you have to take a distance shot.
We hunt more bongo per year than buffalo, as the licencing system only allows you to hunt two Class A animals on a hunting licence. Some hunters prefer to hunt bongo and sitatunga, while others prefer to hunt bongo and buffalo. This explains why there are fewer buffalo hunts.
Hunting forest dwarf buffalo is one of my favourite hunts in the whole of Africa. There is a lot of factors working together that makes this such a wonderful experience. There is a healthy dosage of exhilaration combined with some danger and a little bit of luck – which makes this hunt a whole lot of fun! And, as always, a huge privilege. ASM