Earlier this summer, I was fortunate to take my father to the Northern Territory of Australia to chase water buffalo with my bow, finally got around to doing a little write up, and figured I'd post a couple pics here.
I'm not going to give the blow-by-blow since I have about 20 pages of personal notes and don't want to bore with all the details. But will hopefully hit the highlights.
This hunt was with the same outfitter Pat & Pat Jr. went with back in 2010, (Mick Baker, Trophy Bowhunts Australia) and first I want to thank Pat for sharing that hunt with us as it was reading that semi-live hunt that really set the gears in motion, and Mick of course for putting together an awesome hunt in some really wild, remote country. Some of this may even sound like a copy-cat trip as we followed a very similar itinerary and even stayed in the same camp.
This hunt was high on my list
This is a golden trevally - crab eater that has a mouth that extends to look like a carp when feeding
I had decided to take a longbow and leave the wheels at home. I really haven't been shooting trad all that long (4-5 years) and it's probably the reason I haven't posted too many hero shots on here in a while, but have been bitten bad by it.
After doing a lot of research and testing out a lot of bows and arrow setups, I settled on an A&H ACS longbow with limbs that were about 66lbs at my draw length (30"). While the weight sounds light - these bows really do 'perform' (all relative compared to compounds). I was getting faster flight out of this bow than every other bow I tried 10lbs heavier - and the lighter weight was obviously a lot easier to shoot. That bow was slinging my 850gr arrows at 170fps - again, relative - but that's pretty quick for an overweight arrow on a longbow.
Dad is in his late 70's and just picked up the bow in the last 6 or 8 years. He wasn't going to be able to shoot that much weight. We settled on a Hoyt Charger set at 55lbs, shooting basically the same arrows that were about 50gr lighter to get them to tune. He was getting those arrows to go about 180fps - so numbers wise, we were both in the same ballpark.
Arrows selected were Goldtip Kinetic 200 spine, with a 7 inch aluminum footing (Easton 2013 shafts fit perfectly) to stiffen them up and give a little more reinforcement up front. The stiffness was to support the EFOC, I was shooting 225gr tuffheads with a 200 gr glue-on steel insert, and Dad was shooting the same inserts with 160 gr grizzly's (not our first choice, but we had some last minute issues with some custom screw-in inserts)
In this photo you can see the two lines clearly on this young bull, though you want to be very careful of how it's quartering - this one is borderline, and your kill zone is less than half what it would be straight on.
Sure y'all have all seen the pics of buff like the ones above and thought they aren't that bright - you'd be dead wrong. They have all the senses of a whitetail, which was proven time and again as we were picked off from further than I thought possible, and they busted out of there.
I think part of the reason they are such a high success animal is 1) on good properties, there are a lot of them. We were on at least 2-3 solid stalks each day putting us within 50 yards or so - so with enough opportunities, you're going to have high odds of getting it done. 2) every now and then, you run into a bull that is either curious or doesn't want to leave his turf. These are the bulls that give you the exciting video footage you see.
We had some of those encounters, but I'll say they are the rarity in bow range, not the norm - it took us 4 days before we had our first buff "come check us out" - and when they do get in that mood, it gets pretty exciting - but that's what you paid for!
I'd probably equate their disposition similar to a moose. All the senses, but sometimes, they just don't care or don't know what you are.
Camp was right on the edge of a river that's normally flowing, but had reduced to some big pools as the season had been very dry this year. But no dips in the water, we had a 10ft salty who had taken up residence in the main pool by camp, and even had a couple 3 foot sharks swimming around in it - we were 100 miles from the ocean and the water was very fresh. Note to Pat - apparently you could have got your bow killed shark right out of camp - Mick whacked one on our last day!
Mick runs a one man show on these hunts, it's pretty amazing actually - does many of the same things you'll see a crew of half a dozen or more do in africa - guide, cook, skinner, camp hand all in one.
And, he's got a great sense of humor (You'd have to with that wild hair and beard he gets going during the hunting season), generally a great guy to share camp with - a must when you're out in the bush for a week with just the three of you.
Weather was generally very nice - Mick hunts a property that's a bit further inland so he can hunt earlier in the season - a big plus when compared to some of the Aug-Nov hunts. I'd say it was in the 80's during the heat of the day and got into the high 50's most nights - which kept the mosquitos at bay.
For the most part we'd try to get as close as possible undetected - which could get us within 50 yrds most of the time, then if we ran out of cover, or the buff caught something he didn't like, we'd hunker down and Mick would make some subtle movement like lifting his hat to get the bull's curiosity up. As mentioned before - it wasn't always effective, and I actually really doubted it would work and actually cant say we flagged in a bull, but we did have some come to check us out.
We spent a little time riding around, but quickly figured out that our odds of catching the buff unaware were much better on foot, there had been some commercial shooting on this property for petfood (Mick originally thought that was the end of the property - we were his first paying hunt in 2 years on the place), but I can personally vouch that they didn't make a dent in the buffalo numbers. However, the cows in particular were pretty spooky of the vehicle. Besides, the floodplains were so pock-marked with dried buffalo tracks that it was like driving on a giant golf-ball.
It was some really cool, varied terrain that went from the riverbottom, to flat open flood plains criss crossed with shallow creeks that held wallows and are flooded in the wet season, a few leech infested swamps, and finally everything was rimmed by 100 to 200 foot high rocky ridges. Some spots reminded me of the Selous, some reminded me of south Texas, and some reminded me of the Limpopo in South Africa - but nothing quite fit - different birds, different trees and no thorns!
The pic above is a neat little oasis that sat in a cut in the rim rock. The area in the background through the cut this photo was a spot full of unburnt long grass (5-6 foot tall) that we labeled Cane Grass Corner- we some really exciting hunts in this area as we worked through the grass often bumping into buffalo at very close range (5-15 yrds) which led to some tense moments.
Keep it coming!
PS - Looks like Mick is doing the whole Will Robertson thing with that beard.
This is from the afternoon of Day 1, not very far out of camp, and I believe very close to where Pat shot his buff, we spotted a scrub bull working the edge of a waterhole and decided to give it a go. Yes they are cattle, and yes, I was jazzed to shoot one - I spent enough time messing around with cattle as a kid to want a little payback! In all reality, it could be argued that they are tougher to get on and potentially more likely to charge than the buff. They aren't 'curious' and when you get picked off, the game is over. One thing I did notice is every time we got close to scrub bulls, Mick put one in the chamber - he didn't do that on every buff encounter.
This bull took a trail that kept him at 40 yards. We may have been able to wait him out, but I got impatient as i wasn't willing to sacrifice prime buff time to chase these guys - so I pushed the issue and he blew out of there.
This is a shot as dad and Mick are trailing the buff and gives you an idea of the more open brush that we could stalk in. This chase ended with the buff catching them at about 40 yards and busting out after a brief standoff. Shortly afterwards Dad and Mick were within 20 yards of a different buff who just never gave them a good shot.
I drew on him to say I could've killed him, but had no intention of shooting him - it was day two, and I was going to be picky on the scrub bulls. BTW, I would not have shot him bedded like this, it was a good angle, but don't quite have the same precision with the longbow, so an easy one to screw up. He turned inside out and blew out as I was letting down.
About 400 yards further down the trail, Mick stopped dead in his tracks, looked back to me, mouthed the word pig, with his hand out showing 5 fingers. As I am looking for 5 pigs somewhere in front of Mick, I notice a funny looking log right in front of Mick. In all my years hunting pig infested areas in Texas, I have never seen a sleeping pig. This pig was OUT, so much so that I am not sure either of us were sure he was alive - a thought only reinforced as I stepped out to the side to get a clear shot and crunched a piece of cane - didn't move. He was quartering to me with his belly facing me, but at 5 steps, and a buffalo arrow, I wasn't worried about breaking a leg bone. I drew (half thinking I was just going to end up with a stinky arrow in a dead pig) found my spot and released. The pig jumps up, skewered with the arrow in just in front of the onside leg, and out the top of the back just behind the far leg. I admired the dead pig trotting off with my arrow waiting for him to drop. . . .I am still waiting.
I have no idea what I didn't hit, it was a perfect hit that obviously wasn't perfect, but the pig made it into the long grass, and we lost all sign of him. As a matter of fact, the only blood was one pin drop where he broke the arrow on a tree. Mick said these pigs don't bleed, and I guess he was right - I was ticked at myself and not happy with how I'd started the trip.
This pic is about 300 yards from the pig incident (after bumping yet another group of buffalo) - in front of us is the Oasis mentioned earlier - at the base of the ridge, and to the far right is what we called cane grass corner, and in between and a little further back is the swamp where Pat Jr. Went on the killing spree.
I had just enough time to settle in and range a couple bushes around me before I saw the bull making a beeline to my position.
He made a wide semi-circle to my right still trying to make it to the cover of the river bottom and stopped broadside at 30 yards.
Now,mi said earlier that we were trying for a frontal, but we weren't going to pass up a good broadside shot.
After he had first spooked at 12 yards I had thought the gig was up, the 'buff fever' quickly drained and I was surprisingly calm as I drew and picked my spot. Right in the pocket behind the shoulder. As the string slipped through my fingers, everything felt great.
He buckled at the shot, and I could see that my arrow had hit low and in the vitals.
You can see the white fletchings in the pic above just above the small bush in line with his front leg.
As soon as he turned, I could see that I had gotten about 12 inches of penetration. I felt sick, but hopeful that the placement would make up for the poor penetration.
In this still, you can see the arrow swinging forward as he runs snapping it off - the mid-length cresting provided a great visual indicator of penetration. Sorry for the grainy photo - I am not an editing wiz, and these were pulled off my go pro.
My bull was a nice, relatively old bull with broomed tips. He was definately not the biggest we saw, but I was certainly proud of him. I would say he was very much the average expectation for Mick's property, and a great representative, though Mick's hunters later in the season shot several that put him to shame. Score was 88-89 inches.
After autopsy, we found that the arrow had gone between two ribs, through the back half of the heart, and stopped at the off-side rib. The arrow had snapped off right at the rib line at the back end of the footing. Because of the low placement , penetration was sufficient (obviously). What I will say, however, is I wouldn't recommend shooting them this low in the body - while it looked perfect, a couple inches forward would have been in the leg bone, and a rib width (about 2 inches) back, and I would have been in the stomach and lost the buff.
I did shoot one test arrow in the buff on the ground from about 10 yards and buried it up to the fletchings and lodged solidly in the offside rib. When I do this hunt again, (and it's worth doing more than once) I am definately going to up the weight on my setup. The bow performed great, but I don't know what would have happened if I had squared that rib. Very happy with the arrows, broadhead, and overall construction of the terminal tackle however.
Shawn - I half thought about having them on the ranch, but it'd be a shadow of hunting them in Oz. They are some of the longest-lived bovines in the world (the big bulls are 20+ years old), and hard to keep an animal wild when they are off limits for that long.
No pigs?? Cmon man!
That was the only spot we saw pigs in. I kept expecting to see them when we hunted near the river bottom, but no dice, guess the crocs thin them out down there!