What is a “trophy” Cape Buffalo?

It seems that in recent years hunting has gone in a direction I don’t like. There is a vocal group with a perverse fascination with whitetail deer and some magical number of inches of horn. This group must also have an inordinate number of dollars-per-hunter in order to capture so much media and marketing attention. Even on the rare occasion when I’ve harvested mathematically impressive animal, it’s had nothing to do with a “trophy value” in my heart.

If ever an animal should challenge a hunter to question their thinking on what constitutes a “trophy” animal, Cape Buffalo should be that species!

Let’s consider first an animal that should score very well by Rowland Ward standards:

From http://africanwildlifedefenceforce.com/African_Buffalo.html

Like many of the top trophies in the book, this is a cow. My first problem with using “inches” to define what is a “trophy” is this: why should a healthy mature cow be removed from a heard just to satisfy some fabricated measurement system requirement? I don’t intend any disrespect to anyone who decided to anyone who has killed cows with wide horns, but I have to point out that raw inches is a bad way to evaluate a trophy.

Let’s consider another animal’s horns:


Unlike Rowland Ward, Safari Club International only considers bulls for the books. The bull above has a good number of inches and I would think would easily make the book. Here is the rub with this: Many animals grow bigger antlers or horns every year making a high number of inches desirable.  Cape Buffalo are born without horns, and they grow them outwards until they start fighting when they reach sexual maturity. It’s possible a bull might have its highest “score” the day before he hits sexual maturity. A handful of the bulls currently in the SCI top 20 were bulls that were not mature. In whitetail terms it would be like adding a spike to the P&Y book. It just shouldn’t happen.

From the same site, here is another picture to look at:


What a fantastic animal! Here is a mature bull with flattened out horns and a hard boss. This animal would probably score lower than the first two, but this is the type of animal ideal to hunt. His removal from the herd would not hurt the herd in any way, and he is possibly in that wise/wary but non-breeding/on-the-way-out end of the spectrum.

That website is quite interesting, as well as a few chapters in Africa’s Most Dangerous.

Finally let us consider the “scrum cap” bull:


A bull like this would score very low on the SCI scale, but just look at this old battle worn veteran! Everything about this bull is exactly what should constitute a trophy pursuit. Everything except the measurement and inches that would have him be a “trophy” officially.

Not many folks are interested in buffalo hunting, if you made it this far into the post my hat is off to you. I personally find it very interesting how the idea of “inches” that works so well for deer and elk, does so poorly for buffalo.

While a nice symmetrical set of horns looks nice, and it could put a hunter in the record books, a true trophy to me has nothing to do with what anyone else can see or measure. It’s all found within one’s self and what they see when they look out into the world.

Buffalo longbow

I bought a longbow to hunt Cape Buffalo in 2013. It is a Northern Mist Whisper longbow 85@30 at 68″. It’s a dandy bow and I got a hog with it in 2014. As I was getting ready for this hunt, the logistics involved with a one piece bow kept coming up. Finally, I realized that I really did need a takedown bow for this adventure.

It’s been over two years since I seriously hunted with a ASL, I’ve been hooked on my Black Widow PL longbow because I shoot it better than any other bow I’ve owned. I love ASL bows, especially the last three I am down to, but this is a dead serious endeavor and I think the best thing I can do is mimic the bow I shoot best in every possible way.

Black Widow Bows is building me a 2 piece longbow that matches my current bow in every aspect except draw weight. It will be a few weeks before it gets here, but I trust it will be exactly what I need for hunting Cape Buffalo.

Pumping up the draw weight

I was going to wait until January 1st, but I couldn’t help myself. I took an arrow and put a loop of tape around it at 29.5″ (my true draw with ASL longbows.) I strung up my 75# JET Wolverine and took a few practice draws tonight. Man, that bow felt great! The weight was fine, and holding it at anchor brought a nice muscle burn after a few seconds on each draw.

Every bit of burn felt like I was just a little bit closer to hunting buffalo next August.

I’ll be drawing this bow every morning between now and May 1st before I get my first cup of coffee. After that I’ll be on my 85# longbow until the hunt.

Every day, I am one day closer.

Africa 2017, preparations begin!

After doing much research and more than a little soul searching, I’ve decided to hunt Africa next year.  To be blunt, my desire to hunt a few animals over there has been uncontrollably strong. I want to experience the African bush, meet the people, and pursue the animals. The thing that weighed directly against this idea is the fact I’ve never pursued an animal I didn’t intend to eat.

That last part was a real gotcha for me, I’ve gone back and forth on the idea for years without coming to a clear conclusion. At least, until now. I was very fortunate in harvesting 4 animals this year, and with my freezer being so full I was able to give some meat to friends and family members who cherished the gift. This got me thinking about the stories of a Professional Hunter (PH) I met a while ago. He talked about American and European hunters shooting trophy animals and all of the meat not consumed in camp feeding nearby villagers. I read many accounts from both folks with hunting experiences over there, as well as a few articles from anti-hunters. Both sides gave some excellent points to really help me challenge my internal position.

Land in South Africa is privately owned. Just like ranches in Texas, everyone fences off their land from their neighbors. Whatever animals are within that fence are the property of that landowner. Landowners need to manage the herds at a healthy level so they don’t overpopulate leading to a crash or a disease break out.

That last part is important to understand. There are x number of hectares for a given ranch, only so much food can be grown in that land area. If there are too many impala, some must get killed to prevent them all from starving. These herds will be managed to a given number. Some animals will be killed by either paying hunters, or hired guns.

While other countries in Africa have held more appeal to me personally due to lack of fences, what I’ve come to appreciate about South Africa is just how well they have designed their hunting system. Truly it’s remarkable, when I look at all the different game laws in all the different US states, it’s amazing we don’t take some proven practices from them.

There are just a few animals I get really excited about, the vast majority I could take or leave. I must say the Cape Buffalo is singular in it’s effect on me.  It is by far the biggest and most dangerous of any animal I want to pursue in my lifetime. When it came time to plan my hunt, it was the one hunt I had to do.

Dare To Bowhunt is the operation I have chosen to go with. They hunt exclusively with bows, and Lammie himself is a recurve guy from what I’ve heard from some of his past clients.  I don’t have a long list of animals I want to hunt in Africa, but I will pursue the Buffalo first and foremost. Being a hog hunter, I really hope to get a chance at a warthog. I’ve also heard that impala is delicious (and VERY abundant on the property) so I’d like to harvest one of them too.

Given that a longbow Buffalo hunt is a pretty serious endeavor, I started preparations back in September. First thing was to come up with a workout plan to slowly build up to a point where I could comfortably handle my 85# longbow again. Most important part of the plan was minimizing the risk of injury ahead of the hunt. I have read and reread repeatedly Africa’s Most Dangerous and Buffalo! which I borrowed from my friend James.

January will bring the purchasing of some boots better suited for this environment, moving up to my 75# longbow for winter leagues, and purchasing airfare. It feels good to be doing so many preparations this far out, hopefully it will remove stress as the time gets closer.