Certain individuals leave a lasting impression on you allowing you to have memories that you treasure for the rest of your life. In this case it kind of happened accidentally, Phillip Alotta got into the first truck, which happened to be mine and that was it; we were hunting partners for the trip.
Buffalo was not on Phillip’s agenda, but after a couple of days with me telling him big war stories of past Buffalo hunts I unconsciously convinced Phillip to take on one of these mighty beasts. Now, what set this hunt apart from most others was Phillip’s ability to listen and absorb what I told him, explaining Buffalo behaviour, as well as shot placements and what to expect before and after the hunt. Phillip’s expectations for the hunt were not too high; all he wanted was a memorable hunt.
Rudolph, another Comre Safaris PH, had just hunted a Buffalo in the same area the week before and from what I had heard from him the Buffalo kept to the thickets and were quite alert. I pretty much expected a frustrating hunt at that point. We decided not to lose any more time and started hunting for the Buffalo the very first afternoon in the region where the Buffalo were known to hang out. The first thing we saw was some spectacular Sable within the first few minutes of the hunt. It took us about another hour of driving and looking for fresh tracks in the hope of catching a glimpse of the beasts.
It was getting quite late in the afternoon when I heard a knock on the roof. It was Owen, the tracker, he had seen a Buffalo. I immediately jumped onto the back of the truck and had a look. There, in the not so far distance, just sticking out of the bushes, I could make out the silhouette of an old Buffalo’s back and horns. I instantly got excited, as he was oblivious to our presence there. I jumped off the truck and told Phillip to get ready. The wind was perfect as well as the terrain and the sun was setting behind us. Knowing that the Buffalo would have a hard time looking into the sun to make out what we were I took a straightforward approach. We had the advantage, as I knew that Phillip was one hell of a good hunter.
We were able to get quite close to the area where I saw the Buffalo, but now that we were on ground level we could hardly make out the bull. We saw that they were not spooked so we decided to just wait and let the Buffalo make the first move. It didn’t take long. One by one they started moving around and soon we had about 12 Buffalo all around us with a couple of good bulls here and there, but I didn’t want Phillip to shoot. There was another bull on the outskirts of the group that I wanted to have a good look at first. His behavior told a story and I had a feeling he must be worth a look.
It took us at least another 15 minutes before he lifted his head up and looked in our direction so we could see his spread and bosses. He was beautiful! I turned around and told Phillip; “That is your bull”, with a big grin on my face. We were pretty much in the open right next to a bush, but with no one moving and the sun about to set behind us there was no way they could make out what we were. Every now and then a bull would stare at us, but resume feeding after a couple of minutes. I don’t know how long we stood there, but I was getting worried that we would run out of shooting light and, more importantly, follow up light.
Minutes ticked past and slowly the Buffalo were moving back and forth. We had bulls from 9 paces to about 35 paces from us, but our bull was either right behind a young bull or a bush, and when he did move he would be standing wrong for a shot. I could see the excitement on Phillip’s face as he was taking it all in. Suddenly it happened! Our bull started walking towards us; he stopped at about 20 paces, lifted his head and stared at us. We had discussed this situation earlier in the day and Phillip knew where to put the bullet. I told him that it was now up to him if he felt comfortable in taking the shot. He nodded saying he was ready. With the shot the bull turned and disappeared into the herd running for a thicket about 200 paces from us. We could not waste any time in following the bull as the sun was setting fast. Following the blood was easy until it led into the thicket. I have followed my fair share of Buffalo into some thick stuff before, but this patch was the thickest I had ever seen. I had to go in front as there was no way we could both fit through the brush. Luckily for us the bull was no more than 10 paces in, dead!
What a bull it was! He was perfect in every way, with a spread of 40 inches. With the autopsy we recovered the .375 H&H 300 grain Nostler Partition bullet in the centre of the heart. It was probably the best shot I have ever seen on a Buffalo. Well done Phillip! Hunting with you is a memory I will treasure for the rest of my life.