The Buffalo from Down Under
The Northern Territories of Australia, mostly between Darwin and Alice Springs, is vast and remote. The enormous ranches there are called stations. This area would be on some folks’ bucket list, because of the many national parks and most especially Ayers Rock. But water buffalo was our reason for going there. These animals were brought in from Asia, as domesticated livestock, in the late 1800s. Today they are all feral, much like wild hogs in many states in the U.S.
Two vivid memories of this hunt were the rough roads and many dangerous gates. The rainy season runs October through April, and as the water dries up, buffalo and cattle tracks harden, making your teeth rattle when driving around in a Land Cruiser. And the wire gates, these were strung so tightly that one person almost couldn’t get the wire off the post by himself. When you did, look out. It was a great sense of relief each evening when we went through the last gate and drove onto a smooth road.
The hunting was “spot and stalk” in the pastures the buffalo shared with cattle. Early and late in the day, they were feeding in the open areas, while during mid-day they stayed generally out of site in the brush. The grass was short on the higher ground but taller in the low areas that held water longer after the rainy season. My buffalo was in the tall grass.
It was the last thirty minutes of light and the guide and I slid quietly through the grass, making our way to a lone bull, feeding and completely unaware of our approach. Sixty yards seemed like a fair distance for an off-hand shot with the grass covered his lower half, so I held slightly into it and touched off the 460. He showed no evidence of being hit, but ran over a slight rise and out of sight. Now what?
I thought we should have waited for the truck to make the approach, but the guide insisted we walk right in. Wow, close to dark, tall grass and a wounded buffalo? We walked in slowly, guns at the ready and there he was, dead, the hunt was over. It was certainly an interesting hunting experience from “down under.”
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