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You Don’t Want a Charge! by Tim Herald

You Don’t Want a Charge!

by Tim Herald

Cape buffalo are high on many hunters’ bucket lists, and for those of us who have been fortunate enough hunt them, it becomes almost addictive. One thing I have heard a hundred times from people who want to hunt Cape buffalo for the first time is, “I want to hunt Cape buffalo up close and experience a charge. That looks like it would be a real rush!”

While a buffalo charge will surely be an adrenaline filled encounter, for anyone who has hunted buffalo a lot or has actually experienced a charge, it is something that you definitely do not want to happen. I have hunted buffalo a lot, and I have experienced a charge, and believe me, it can be a nightmare.



The number one way to avoid a buffalo charge is to make a good first shot. If you shoot a buffalo with a quality bullet, hit him in the heart or lungs, he will usually run 20-100 yards and die quickly and without incident. The problem generally comes from a poor first shot, and then you have to deal with a wounded, and usually very mad, ton of black death.

The first two buffalo I ever killed were with a single shot rifle. I would highly recommend that no one ever take a single shot on a buffalo hunt. Yes, that first shot can do the job, but it’s just not a smart move to go dangerous game hunting having only one shot without needing to reload.

The one thing that those two buffalo taught me was to be picky and very sure about my initial shot. I remember vividly the second bull I killed on that trip was standing about 45-50 yards away looking straight at me. I was shooting a .375 H&H, and I didn’t want to take a frontal shot because if you are off to either side just a bit, you can hit only one lung, and then things can get ugly. My PH kept telling me to shoot him in the chest, but I held out until he turned to leave, he gave me a good broadside shot, I hit him low in the shoulder, and he literally died five yards from where he stood.

Speaking of PH’s telling you to shoot. I have seen many tell a client to take a shot at a certain black spot in the brush, as they have seen with binos that that is the bull’s shoulder. Do not take a shot like that. If you wait, you will probably get a higher quality shot, and if not and you are in a good buffalo area, you will get another opportunity. Make sure you can see the buffalo’s vitals, you know what you are shooting at, and you are completely confident that you can make the shot before you squeeze the trigger. I don’t care if your PH is over your shoulder telling you to, “shoot, shoot, shoot”, if you aren’t 100% comfortable with the shot and sight picture, do not shoot. That will alleviate the vast majority of wounds and follow ups.

Speaking of good sight pictures, I can’t stress enough how important quality optics are to making great shots on buffalo. I hunt with both a double rifle chambered in .470 NE and a bolt action .416 Rem. Both are serious buffalo killers and have taken many buffalo and elephants.

I have installed a Trijicon RMR Type 2 reflex sight  on my .470 double. The tiny red dot gives me a precise aiming point, provides incredibly fast target acquisition, and I can shoot with both eyes open which really helps on follow up shots. It extends my comfortable shooting range with my double rifle from about 40 yards with iron sights to 100 yards with the RMR2 (but I wouldn’t shoot a buffalo that far with it).

On my .416 Rem bolt action, I have a Trijicon AccuPoint scope. Mine has regular crosshairs with a green illuminated aiming point in the center. It is illuminated by fiber optics and tritium, so you never have to worry about it going out. That little illuminated dot sure shows up well against a black buffalo’s hide and makes aiming at a precise spot a breeze. The AccuPoint comes in a number of great options for safari hunting depending on what your preference is.  Some top choices are the 1-4x24, 1-6x24, and 3-9x40 models.

These quality optics will make a big difference in acquiring the correct site picture to help you make a perfect first shot on buffalo and avoid a very dangerous charge situation. It may sound cool or romantic to face down a charging buffalo, but believe me, it is something to be avoided at all costs. Make that first shot count!

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