Still screwed up from the time change, I woke several times during the night and kept forcing myself to get back to sleep. A combination of excitement, anticipation, mosquitoes that kept finding their way into my little nest, and the nonstop sounds of ‘horny horny hippos’ grunting and chasing each other around made it near impossible to get a deep sleep. But it was cool just being there and I didn’t mind it one bit.
Willem and Dominga were up at dawn and I soon followed. After a quick breakfast of a coke and two granola bars (homemade nasty grits for Dominga) we were on the argos and heading back to where we saw the herd yesterday.
They had moved quite a ways off and we thought we had found them again, but they appeared to have separated into two smaller herds; one directly ahead of us way off in the distance, and one to the right of us in the razor grass.
The wind was better for the herd in front of us so we took off for them.
Like yesterday, we got out the Argo several hundred yards away and worked the cover toward the herd. Another three hundred yards of belly-crawling followed up by crossing a very wet swamp up to our waist in mud. It didn’t bother me at all since I had taken the advice of Richard Baggett (a bowhunter who had killed a buff here last year) and bought 3 pair of cheap converse canvas sneakers that I could get wet and muddy and simply clean and cycle through each day.
As we got closer to the edge of the razor grass, the herd was just too far away again – about 100 yards from cover. And for the first time in a while the sun came out and was baking the black animals – making them lazy. Out of 500 or so animals, 400 were laying down. We needed a plan and I had and idea: Nudging the herd in our direction.
It worked for me before and it could work here. As I told the plan to Willem we knew it was a long shot but it was worth a try. Willem discussed it with Dominga and he took off while we got in position at an obvious funnel point for the buffalo. It would take about 20 minutes for Dominga to swing out far enough so he didn’t alarm the buffalo. I looked to the sky and for the first time noticed an omen - vultures were circling above us. Hopefully they were there for the buffalo!
I pulled out my number one arrow and nocked it on the string. Willem put a round in the chamber of his .375 and laid it next to him. He was going to try and film using my video camera but if anything went wrong he made it clear that the video was secondary to our safety. I agreed. With our little nest cut out on the side of the funnel we waited for Dominga to make some magic.
But something went wrong. The bedded buffalo jumped to their feet and all faced the opposite way. Then we heard Dominga yelling at the buffalo. We couldn’t see him, but it sounded like he was close to the herd – far too close! This was not the plan. It’s called a nudge for a reason. He had triggered a stampede. And that entire black sea of buffalo was now heading toward the razor grass in one massive herd – straight at us. I turned to Willem and said “This is really, really bad isn’t it” Willem said “Yup” as he pulled up his rifle. The ground rumbled as the line of buffalo closed in. A cow and calf were about to run over us so Willem busted our little nest and yelled while swinging his rifle. This diverted her path when she was no less than 10 yards away. She ran to the left while the rest of the herd piled through the razor grass - just 30 yards away. Our little plan worked, but in hindsight it was pretty stupid.
The herd regrouped and ran back out into the open where they stampeded away in a cloud of dust.
We gave them another couple of hours, had lunch and drove the Argo back in their direction. I thought they may be too spooked to try again, but Willem and Dominga felt they would settle down. So we spent the afternoon crawling back into position. About 90% of the herd was in the open next to a large patch of razor grass, they were unstalkable. But the others were in the razor grass. Those were the ones we went after.
After another hour of crawling on our bellies, slurping through thigh deep mud, and inching our way through razor grass Dominga motioned to me that we were extremely close and I needed to go low and slow. They were focused to the right and as I peeked through the razor grass I could see we were within 50 yards of several buffalo. Willem set up at a small clearing and if you moved your head forward and to the right, the buffalo were right there and feeding their way toward us. He told me to get on my knees and take out an arrow.
He took the camera and Dominga had the rifle. I was in position and ready, however there was some low brush which prevented a shot from on my knees. I would have to stand. I told Willem this and he told me he would direct me.
The first buffalo fed into sight and by some stroke of incredible luck it was a huge bull pushing 40 inches. He was followed by two cows and some other small bulls and calves. This was it. My dream of shooting a cape buff was just seconds away. I ranged him at 50 yards and closing.
Willem was standing a couple feet behind me and tucked into the razor grass. He kept rolling the tape while I stayed out in front and had a better view. The buffalo kept walking toward me - the others still following. Willem asked me to range him. “41 yards” I said. He said "stand up and take the shot." But what I could see, and he couldn’t was a cow had moved in and she was like that big Alpha doe back home – you know, the ones with radar! I whispered back, I can’t. Willem insisted I stand up and take the shot, but I didn’t think it was smart. What I didn’t know was he couldn’t see the cow. But I deferred to his expertise and slowly stood up. The entire herd crashed away.
Willem apologized and appeared to be very upset with himself. But there was no need to be, I didn’t have to stand up and it wasn’t his fault he couldn’t see the cow. But in all likelihood, that bull would have come closer and my buffalo hunt may have been over. Oh well, that's bowhunting.
We had another outstanding supper (gag) and hit the sack much earlier than usual to the sound of hippos humping. We needed to hunt again here tomorrow but at some point we have to head back to restock…unless we get lucky!