In the previous issue of AFRICA’S SPORTSMAN MAGAZINE, I told readers how I came to love and acquire my own big-bore rifles, and I shared my first hunts in Africa with them. As promised, I will now tell you more about my buffalo hunt in Mozambique, where I had to outsmart this dangerous animal on its own turf.

I flew from Ålesund in Norway to Amsterdam, and on to Johannesburg with KLM. I was nervous when I landed, hoping that the rifles had arrived on the same plane I was on. Even if all the paperwork is OK, one never knows!
In Johannesburg I was met by Albie Morkel and our photographer on this hunt, Rob O’Brien. After having obtained clearance at the police station where the rifles had arrived safely, we were off to visit a good friend of mine, Willem Immelman. We enjoyed a braai and caught up over a G&T. It was good to be with friends in Africa again.
The following morning, Albie, Rob and I met with more friends in Pretoria for breakfast. Among them was Hancke Hudson, my professional hunter. Hancke is a legend in the hunting community. He has done hard hunts with clients all over Africa and specialises in hunting trophy bongo and Lord Derby eland in Cameroon. I understand why people love hunting with him – he is a real people person, and the first time I met him at HuntEx 2016, I immediately knew this was a guy I wanted to befriend. He has a great sense of humour and tons of hunting stories to tell. If you ever meet him, ask him about his double eland hunt in Cameroon with the .416 Rigby. That story cracked me up and I still find myself laughing about it.
Hancke and I had many discussions around rifle / calibre on our 12-hour trip to Mozambique. To summarise, we both love the .416 Rigby and .500 NE, and to have both is ideal.
The drive through the northern part of the Kruger National Park was epic. We had just driven through the gates and there, just 30 m from the gate, we saw our first elephant. On our way through we saw numerous buffalo, elephant, impala, massive kudu and even leopard. The animals were used to cars and did not run off. We had time to study them, which was amazing.
The border crossings between South Africa and Mozambique went well, and after four hours on dirt roads, we arrived at our camp. We took our luggage to our rooms, kitted up and went to zero the rifles. I used two shots with the .416 Rigby and two with the .500 NE. We were now ready for the hunt.
I was curious as to how the Hornady DGX would work with factory ammunition in the Verney, because it was regulated with Norma PH. The difference was marginal and I was confident.
I have used a lot of Hornady bullets in my doubles over the years, and have shot several red deer with it in Norway. The DGX bullets are excellent. I have used them in .375, .416, .458, .470 and .500 NE. They are easy to use, there is a steady supply, and the price is good – all reasons for shooting a lot with the big bores.

When hunting buffalo in unfenced areas, there is a strategy as to the way we hunt. Buffalo need to fill up with water once every 24 hours. One therefore goes to a waterhole at first light, finds a track, and walks it. They normally drink in the morning, graze for an hour or two, and then find a place to bed down during the hot hours of the day. One normally finds fresh dung after a couple of hours on the spoor – an indication that they are looking for a place to rest. They want to get rid of the dung before taking their siesta for the day to avoid attracting predators. Buffalo are constantly tracked by lion in these areas.

Boots on the ground
On Saturday morning we found the first buffalo just 900 m from camp. We decided to follow it and tracked them for 2,5 hours. It was about 38° C and it was a hard start, so we decided to take a five-minute break. Halfway through the break, we heard something in a thicket close by. Hancke and I grabbed our rifles and the crew followed behind. We walked towards the thicket but I could not see anything as it was dark inside because of the shade. I was standing next to Hancke, and Roberto our tracker and his buddy were really close to the thicket. If I had to guess, I was about 12 m from the thicket and Roberto only 6 m.
Suddenly I heard something moving inside the thicket, with twigs snapping. Then I saw him – he stepped into a small clearing as if in slow motion. I saw his right horn tip going up towards his head and then his full head. I have heard that buffalo look at you like you owe them a ton of money – it is spot on! Seeing this massive buffalo was awesome but also a sobering experience. The tracker is too close, I thought to myself. I was hoping he would lie down because this old bull was going to charge.
My rifle was firmly in my hands, my thumb was on the safety, ready to place the bead underneath the bosses of this big old warrior. There was a brief silence, then the bush exploded in sound and movement. To my huge surprise, the bull turned and ran. We could hear his horns hitting the trees and saw them swaying from the impact. I saw the bull clear the thicket and come into the open; he was running as fast as he could from this danger. The whole thing was over in seconds, but it felt like minutes. Only then did it finally hit me – I was hunting buffalo in Africa, my lifelong dream …
We tracked the buffalo for several more kilometres but decided to pass him up because we found a fresh track of two buffalo bulls. You can walk after a buffalo that knows you are hunting him, and all you will do is bump him again and again. We tracked and bumped two buffalo after this but the wind was not in our favour. We walked for eight hours that day, covering about 23 km.
On Sunday morning we set off at first light and found a good spoor at a waterhole. It was big, most probably a solitary old dagga boy. We took up the track and walked for three hours. There were no signs of this bull slowing down and he did not eat on his way. We had crackers and warm cheese with corned beef for lunch. It was heating up – Hancke’s watch showed 41° C. The barrel of the Verney was getting hot to touch, so I could not move my hand too much anymore. My favourite way of carrying the rifle was over my shoulder, with a good grip on the front sight. The Verney balances beautifully, so you do not get tired of this position when carrying it for a long time.
We followed the spoor for another four hours. Our water was getting low and Rob, our cameraman, was getting tired. “Do you guys never give up?” he asked. “No, why should we? The spoor is there, we just need to connect with him,” I said. Hancke gave him some electrolytes to give him a boost.
Nine hours and 26 km into the stalk, we were close. The trackers found the place where the buffalo had bedded down. Again it was in really thick stuff and the wind was changing constantly. Suddenly I heard a rumble just on the other side of two big bushes about 30 m away. I was standing directly behind Hancke. He put his Sabatti double rifle down on his foot, rested it against his body, pulled his cap down with both hands and cursed silently.
“What is it?” I asked.
“It’s the buffalo. He is an old bull, his backside is all white,” he replied. I laughed. Hell, this might be trickier than I expected, I thought to myself. I turned to Rob, who did not seem happy. I think he wished that the hunt was over.
We checked the GPS – just 4 km to the nearest road. We set a fast pace. It was too late in the day to pick up another track, and our water supply was depleted in any case. The road we came to was the Zimbabwe border. There are no fences between these countries, so the game animals roam freely. We sat there, waiting for the pickup to fetch us, when Werno Drinkwater, the owner of the farm, spotted two bulls walking in from Zimbabwe onto the farm.
We grabbed our kit and set a very fast pace to find them. At this stage we were all a little dehydrated and exhausted. After 400 m we found the track and went into the bush again. There we tracked the buffalo for another kilometre but bumped them. Luck was not on our side! When we arrived back at the road, the pickup with cold beer and other cold refreshments had arrived – it was the best beer I had had all year! Sitting on the border of Zimbabwe, sipping on a G&T and watching the sunset was amazing. Upon arriving back at camp, we enjoyed a very good dinner and then went to bed early for a good night’s rest. The following morning we would have an early start.

Monday, the third day of our hunt, started like the two previous days with good tracks at the water pan. The tracks were fresh and showed two bulls walking together. We set off and after about 20 minutes we found fresh dung. Was this the break we were looking for? We were optimistic, but after about 2,5 hours we were getting dangerously close to the neighbour’s area. If the buffalo went onto his property, our stalk would have been in vain. And that is exactly what happened – 20 minutes later they crossed the border, leaving a pile of dung so fresh it did not even have a dark crust; so close, yet so far.
We called in the pickup, went to another pan and found another spoor. After five hours of tracking, we finally found some buffalo lying up in the thicket. Hancke called me closer and tried to show me the two shapes. Raising my binoculars, however, I could not see them in the dense vegetation. I was astounded at how difficult it was. But it did not matter because four seconds later they ran and we did not see them again. For the rest of the day we never connected with any more buffalo. After 8,5 hours of searching, we called it a day. That evening we had another delicious dinner and some G&Ts, and then it was off to bed.
Tuesday was our last hunting day – actually, it was not supposed to be. We were supposed to leave for Pretoria that day to meet up with our friends, but we changed the plan. We needed to close the buffalo deal before coming home. The entire group was frustrated about at how tough and difficult the hunt had been.
I woke up at 4 a.m. and lay in bed for 45 minutes, reflecting on the hunt so far. I was wondering what I would tell my wife if I returned home empty-handed. What would all my friends say who knew I had been looking forward to this hunt for months? I battled with these questions, but then I started thinking like this: If I wanted to know 100% that I would come home with a buffalo, I was in the wrong place. Mozambique is not a fenced-in area; we were hunting wild, free-roaming animals over vast areas, with buffalo coming in from Zimbabwe and elsewhere. We were hunting them the right way. I could have hunted them in a fenced-in area in another country, but would that be the ultimate hunt for me? No, there are not many hunters who have the privilege to hunt in Mozambique, let alone experience a fair-chase hunt for big buffalo. If that meant I didn’t get my buffalo, so be it.

We walked an average of 25 km the previous three days and everybody was tired. We were hunting in the thick stuff and the buffalo had the edge. We weren’t given anything for free – if it wasn’t the ground with dry leaves betraying our presence, it was the wind. Most of the time the wind turned on us, giving the buffalo our scent. It was very frustrating but I did not want to focus on it. We were still on the ground with rifles in hand; there still was a chance.
The fourth day arrived, our last day in the bush. Thunder-storms and the rain showers during the night and morning had erased all tracks. We searched for spoor at all the pans we had tracked the previous three days, but found nothing. Desperate, we drove to a new location, but still nothing. After a short 5 km walk through one of the blocks to search for tracks, we gave up and headed back to camp and lunch (the first time we had lunch in camp the entire trip).
On our way back, we saw a big warthog lying under a tree. He was bedded down after scraping off the topsoil to find cooler ground to lie on. We stopped the pickup and I jumped off. I put the bead of the .500 NE in the centre of his head and squeezed the trigger. He dropped like a stone. The distance for my free-hand shot was exactly 50 m. This not only boosted my confidence but also that of the entire team. We walked over to the warthog and I realised how big he was – a full 80 kg! The bullet had impacted vertically exactly between his eyes, although a bit high. It did not matter much, as the brain was scrambled. Like any other pig, the warthog’s body does not know the brain is no longer working, so he was trying to run out of habit. I gave him a second shot straight through the back into the spine. The twitching stopped immediately. After taking some pictures, we loaded him onto the vehicle and drove to camp for lunch.
The mood around the table was relaxed but I felt the need to close the deal and get the buffalo in the salt. After a solid lunch, we got on the pickup and drove into a new area. We came to a water pan we had not tracked before and Roberto soon picked up a good track. All other tracks had been washed away by the rain that morning, so we immediately knew there was a good chance of catching up with the two buffalo. It was 14:20, so we had 3,5 hours of light left.
During the first 150 m of the stalk, we all realised these two buffalo were very close. We saw it in the tracker’s body language. We separated the group into two, one group staying 30 m behind to keep movement and sound to a minimum. Now we were moving into really thick stuff and the leaves on the ground were a real challenge. Luckily the ground was sandy, so there were small patches of sand we could step on. Everyone was in stealth mode and for once we had the wind in our favour. We came to a very small clearing in the bush and could clearly see the buffalo had lain there just a few minutes earlier. My heart started to race. Was this our big chance?
Hancke turned to me and whispered, “They are very close. Are you ready?”
“Yes,” I whispered back. “Are there still two buffalo?”
“Yes, I will judge them quickly this time, so you can shoot fast. I have seen you shoot with that double and I know you can do this,” Hancke said.
We had only stalked about 150 m when Roberto stopped in his tracks, signalling us to drop to the ground. Hancke walked on and glassed with his binoculars. He turned and gestured to me to come. “Do you see it?” he asked. About 40 m ahead I saw the shape of a head through the bushes and one clear black spot. The buffalo was facing us with his body quartering towards the right. “Place your rifle on Roberto’s backpack and shoot him!” Hancke whispered urgently in my ear. He was sitting on the ground in front of me.
The next few seconds seemed to pass in slow motion. I was praying that the buffalo would stand still … We had experienced this situation several times before – these animals did not hesitate to run off. I lined up the Verney and put the front bead on the black spot half a metre from the shape of the head. The corridor I had for the shot was three-quarters the size of a clay pigeon. I knew my rifle was accurate, I have trained extensively, and now all my focus was on squeezing the trigger.
The silence was shattered by the shot, my right barrel delivering a 570 gr Hornady DGX to its target. I was pushed back by the recoil and saw the buffalo turn and run. I felt good, knowing I had not jerked the trigger. “I think it was a good shot,” I told Hancke while breaking the rifle open. The case ejected and landed 2 m behind me. Then I loaded a new cartridge from my belt, closed the rifle and put it on safe. That was when the doubt started creeping into my mind. Was it really such a good shot? Was it not too high or too far back? I started picturing a long follow-up on the last day. We had to leave early the next morning, so I was worried that I would never see the buffalo again. They are the toughest animals one can hunt, and when the adrenaline kicks in, almost nothing can stop them.
“Come!” Hancke shouted. I snapped out of my brief daydream, full of doubt. It was back to business! We were on the spot where the buffalo had stood but there was no blood. We followed the track for 10 m and I was looking for any sign of blood. Then I looked up and saw a broad smile on Roberto’s face. He was gesturing for me to come forward. About 20 m in front of him lay a big black buffalo bull. I could not believe it!
All fear vanished as I quickly walked over to Hancke. We approached the buffalo from behind. I knew this was a dangerous part of the hunt, as it often is the “dead” buffalo that kills people. Hancke poked him with the barrel of his double rifle near to root of the tail; there were no signs of life. Then he walked over to the animal’s head and did the same with the eye – still nothing. Hancke turned and he had the widest grin I had seen in a long time. The buffalo bull was ours! I gave Hancke a big hug and said, “Thank you for helping me fulfil a lifelong dream.” We were so happy, I could barely hold back my tears. Never in my life had I hunted so hard to get an animal in the salt. The rest of the group caught up with us and there were hugs all around. It was a team effort and everyone deserved praise.
It was time to look at our hard-earned quarry. He truly was a monster. The old bull, his white face covered in battle scars, was past his prime and had started losing body mass. We were pleasantly surprised by the horns, which measured 46″! An average buffalo measures 36–38″, and a very good specimen 40″; very rarely do you see a 42–43″ buffalo and this beast was 46″! He was everything we had discussed earlier around the bonfire: an old, over-the-top bull that was no longer breeding – the perfect bull, and in this case with massive horns.
I believe the hunting gods challenged us on this trip. It was the first time I had a chance to line up on a buffalo and they gave us this beauty. I will never forget that feeling of walking up to that beautiful animal.
Needless to say, the party we had when we came back to camp was a wild celebration – endless toasting with all kinds of drinks, beers and cigars for all. The next morning we slept in until 7:00 (we normally got up at 4:45), had a good breakfast and loaded our gear onto the pickup. The trip back went well.
When I sat on the plane back to Amsterdam, I fell asleep while we were taxiing out to the runway. I only woke up when they served breakfast before landing. I was exhausted but I also came home with a great story to tell everyone.
I with to thank everybody who was involved in this amazing trip but especially the following people: Hancke Hudson, Marco van Niekerk, Albie Morkel, Werno Drink-water, Jerome Lanoue, Rob O’Brien and Roberto. ASM