It certainly didn’t look like any swamp that I’d ever seen, I can tell you that. I was thinking cypress trees, hanging vines, dark, still water. You know, a regular southern swamp.
What passes for a swamp in Mozambique looks more like what we’d call a coastal marsh. It’s real flat, mostly no trees, and covered with tall grass. Crossing it in numerous places are fresh water tributaries, running east towards the Indian Ocean. You can easily spot these tributaries because they have lots of tall papyrus and are surrounded by saw grass that is almost as tall. Luckily, we had a Swedish Swamp Buggy, a tracked vehicle, that would get us across all of this stuff.
The plan was to spot a cape buffalo herd, park the buggy, and make the stalk on foot. The way it worked out is that we were slopping through these water courses, knee deep in mud and occasionally stepping off into holes that brought the water up to our waists. Oh, did I mention that these same water courses are the home of hippos and fresh-water crocodiles? The PH said, “If you start to fall, don’t grab the saw grass. It’ll cut your hands up.” He wasn’t lying.
Around nine o’clock, on a sunny morning, we spotted a buffalo herd about 1,000 yards away. We slopped through mud, water, and liquified hippo poop, for a bit over 30 minutes as we made our stalk and got into position. The herd was now about 50 yards away.
Richard Mann and the two trackers knelt down in the mud and saw grass while Julian Moller (my PH) and I set up the shooting sticks and started looking for a worthy candidate of the buffalo persuasion. Julian quickly put me onto a bull that was feeding on our side of the herd. I got on the sticks but had to wait for him to step clear of the rest of the 250-animal ensemble. I was on the sticks about three minutes (it seemed like three hours) before he stepped into the clear and turned his right side towards me. With my Leupold 1.5×5 scope turned down all the way, I settled the crosshairs on his shoulder and loosed a Barnes 300 grain TSX bullet his way.
At my shot, the buffalo herd took off. But, as I reloaded my Ruger #1H, I saw my buff staggering to the right and disappearing into the tall grass. Julian and I began a slow stalk to the area where I had last seen my buffalo. We found him, down and out, about 15 yards away. Though he certainly seemed finished, I drove a Barnes 300 gr solid into his back and through his heart. “Paying the insurance” is what African hunters call it and it is an absolutely superb idea. One does not care to be stomped by a “dead” buffalo.
This was a great ending to what has been a lifetime goal of mine, hunting the wild African buffalo. But I never said it was going to be a “once-in-a-lifetime” deal. You can just bet your sweet bippy that, the red gods willing, I’ll be going back. And soon!