The attraction of hunting Africa’s wild cattle is this: You can get killed in the process. You can get killed hunting other animals, of course, but a Cape buffalo will take special delight in sticking a horn through you, or trampling you, or throwing a downfield block on you.
There are additional benefits. You get to buy a heavy, powerful rifle that you would never otherwise use. Your hunt may be very easy, or very tough. But just about everyone who tries gets a buff, because there are a lot of them around, and after you have gotten yours, you can lord it over your friends. When they take out their pathetic whitetail photos, you whip out a shot of you and old nyati.
If I were planning a buffalo hunt, my first step would be to figure out how much I wanted to spend and how big a trophy I wanted. I would rule out a hunt in the Republic of South Africa. There are bargains in the RSA, but buffalo ain’t one of them. This leaves plenty of choices: Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Tanzania, and Namibia.
Despite their fearsome reputation, Cape buffalo are scared of people and depart promptly when humans show up. They are very good at this, and so you will probably chase them quite a bit. If it were my hunting trip, I would allow at least five hunting days and would be much happier with seven or 10. You should also be in shape. I killed my best buffalo after a leisurely 10-minute stroll into the middle of a herd, but I have also had five backbreaking days, one after the other, playing tag with them.
About guns: The legal minimum in most places is the .375 H&H, and if it were me, I would take something bigger, provided that I could shoot it. I would opt for a .416 Rigby or a .416 Remington; if you can handle it, the .458 Lott makes believers out of them. You also need a low-power scope, as most buffalo are shot at close range in thick brush.
The best way to find a reputable outfitter and line up an African hunt is to attend any Safari Club International Convention, particularly the big one that’s held in Reno, Nevada, each year. The next one is January 23-26, 2008. Go to safariclub.org for details.
Like most hunters, I can’t stand it when deer season closes. There’s a letdown that happens every December, and there’s no avoiding it. Fortunately, I’ve discovered a cure for this malady, and that cure is to go south.
This year I went to Mississippi, where the whitetail season runs long (into February) and wild boar season runs even longer (into spring). I had never hunted boars in Mississippi before, and as I found out, their style of hunting is not for the faint of heart.
On New Year’s morning, seven men, seven horses, and six hounds (curs and Catahoulas) all gathered at Alton Norris’ lodge, near Cary. Then we all piled into pickups and trailers and rolled over to the Delta National Forest, a sprawling bottomland tract just 10 miles down the road. When we got there, we saddled up and waited until dog handler Ken Holmes let loose the hounds. And off they went into the thick January woods, noses to the ground, trying to catch a whiff of wild hog. And they did, too, as we heard loud baying in the distance after a few hours. Then it was off to the races, everyone at full gallop, tearing through the forest toward the barking and howling.
What we found as we got close can only be described as mayhem: dogs running, baying, and growling in a maelstrom of activity, at the center of which was a grunting, snorting, pissed-off wild boar doing his best to gouge his tusks into any dog that got too close.
I grabbed a scopeless lever-action .44 magnum (I passed on the Bowie knife) and pushed my way through the brush. Checking the dogs, I put the sights on the boar’s heart and quickly got off a shot. One more shot, and the fight was suddenly over. Then everyone was whooping and hollering, shaking hands, and having a good time recapping the morning’s events. By noon we had the boar back at Alton’s place, butchered and on ice. I was on a flight home the next day. Three days later I was still on a high.
To get a taste of pure Americana, contact Alton Norris of Norris Outfitters in Cary, Miss. Boar hunts, $500 per day; deer hunts, two days, $750. 662-873-7018; email@example.com –Jay Cassell
DEER IN THE LAND OF THE KODIAK
Hunting Kodiak Island’s Sitka blacktail deer, using the services of a transporter, isn’t exactly “Alaska Lite,” but it does spare you some of the more tedious expeditionary aspects of the 49th state, while preserving much of the adventure.
A group of us hunted last December with Capt. Mike Flores off his two oceangoing boats, one 43 feet, the other 50. Flores moved us from hunting area to hunting area, fed us well, and provided warm dry bunks. He put us ashore every morning and picked us up at dark. What he didn’t do was guide us, being licensed only to transport.
Deer numbers on Kodiak are so high that no reasonably competent hunter needs a guide. Hunting goes from easy to hard, depending on where the deer are–the colder and snowier, the lower they go. You never forget which island you’re on, and that it’s home to very large brown bears; and though you rarely encounter any, you are always aware that you could stumble onto one around the next bend. To be on the safe side, I carried a Remington Model 700 XCR (Xtreme Conditions Rifle) chambered in .300 magnum, topped by a Cabela’s Premium 3-9×40 scope.
If you’re interested in a do-it-yourself hunt, and a chance for halibut fishing and whale watching, contact Ninilchik Charters. They run eight-day trips, including air charter to Larsen Bay and licenses and tags. The season runs September 30 to December 16 ($2,350-$2,450). Kodiak bear and combo deer-black bear hunts are also available. 800-973-4742; ninilchik.com –Thomas McIntyre
Want to shoot 1,000 shells in a day? And then do it the next day, and the next? Then pack your bags and get on a plane to Argentina. You’re in for an education in shooting.
Gunning for doves in South America will teach you more than any shooting school can. The variety of shots presented is practically unlimited, as is the number of shots that you will take in a day. A typical shooter who comes to a lodge in the Cordoba region averages 36 boxes for each day of shooting.
Cordoba, which attracts dove shooters from around the world, was founded in the early 1600s and boasts more than 120 ancient churches, plus historic squares, restaurants, and shopping. For the wingshooter, the main attraction is doves, millions of them. Estimates vary from 30 million to 55 million birds. This is a nightmare for agriculture, but a boon for sportsmen. At one lodge where I’ve stayed, clients shoot in excess of 10 million cartridges per year.
Probably the best establishment in the region is Estancia Los Chanares. Its five-star service, plush accommodations, and short drives to shooting make this the top choice.
Excluding airfare, tips, and cartridges, these trips are a lot of bang for the buck, but do realize that it’s easy to get caught up in the moment and shoot hundreds of boxes on a trip. Shotshells here are expensive, perhaps $10 a box, which can add up to exceed the basic cost of the trip if you’re not careful. Four days, three nights, $2,000-$2,500. 917-463-0006; drivenshooting.com –Alex Brant
NORDIC MOOSE AND WHITETAILS
When I first saw southern Finland, with its neat farmhouses and cabins, fields plowed black, yellow birches, and dark spruces, it looked like eastern Canada. And it had moose.
I hunted as the guest of Sako Ltd., and a local hunting club, Topenon Era. A big bull moose, generally called elk in Europe and hirvi in Finland, weighs 900 pounds, so I had a Tikka T3 Hunter in 9.3×62 shooting 268-grain Sako Hammerheads, and a 1.25-4×24 Swarovski scope. To earn a hunting license, I had to hit a moose target, both standing and running, offhand.
Thirty to 40 hunters push the woods, and dogs may be used. Anything from foxes to capercaillie, black grouse, roe deer, and even whitetails can come out ahead of the drivers. The hunter success rate on moose isn’t high, but the experience, including gathering around the fire between drives to roast sausages on willow sticks, is unforgettable.
Diana Hunting Tours can arrange combination moose and whitetail hunts, including license, lodging, and breakfasts, for 1,350 euros, or about $1,830, plus trophy fees–around $405 for moose and $340 for deer. 011-45-6223-1110; diana.dk –Thomas McIntyre