Everyone has a little cowboy in ’em. That’s what I told a tie-wearing executive from Marlin a few years back while he speculated on the continued popularity of lever-guns when everyone wanted an AR 15. From the time we hatch it’s the cowboy that captures our imagination. Cowboys are like super heroes who are real. Nothing encapsulates the American spirit like the cowboy. It’s that gun-slinging, hat-wearing, tougher than leather persona that stirs something deep inside us.
If you’re a hunter, Africa should stir something inside you too. Our American west is still wild and rugged but it’s not as hard and wild as places in Africa like Mozambique. When I began planning my buffalo hunt in Mozambique I asked Craig Boddington for advice and he said, “I’m not at all sure you can hurt a buffalo, but I’m very sure you can kill him. You must be absolutely certain of your shot!”
When the time came the shot was there and I thought my aim was true. I was certain. I was wrong. It was a mistake I’ll never forget. After the rifle roared the buff stumbled, wheeled, and ran off with the rest of the herd. We soon found him in the tall grass. That’s when I knew it was going to get western.
As we started to move in and he laid down; he was going to try to ambush us. We closed to 20 feet and my PH said, “Shoot him in the shoulder.” I did and the buff exploded, looking at us like he had caught us in bed with his wife. I heard a thunderous roar from my PH’s .470 but the buff showed no reaction.
I’d already cowboyed the lever gun so swung to the big black head, found the reticle and pressed the trigger. I quickly ran the lever but when the rifle leveled the bull was down. I shot him two more times in the chest just because I thought it was the right thing to do and because I still had lots of ammo left.
My first shot had hit about three inches to the left of my point of aim. The 430 grain hard cast bullet from Buffalo Bore had penetrated four feet along the right side of the spine destroying the back strap. Three inches! Three inches to the left and it would have torn out the spine and dropped the bull where he stood. We also found the PH’s bullet had struck the horn and glanced into parts unknown. It was the shot to the head that ended it.
I guess you could say I screwed up and then had to cowboy up to correct my mistake. Looking at the damage the .45-70 did to the buff, there was no question it was enough gun. I’d do it again on a moments notice. But, instead of being certain of my first shot, I would be absolutely certain. That was Boddington’s advice. I’d heard it plainly, just failed to follow it. Cowboy’s can be stubborn like that.
The rifle I used in Mozambique was my rifle, not one loaned out for a hunt. Marlin’s 1895 SBL is an all stainless lever-action with an 18.5 inch barrel. It comes out of the box with big loop lever and an XS Lever Rail installed. The Lever Rail allows for the quick on and off of a scout scope and is fitted with an XS ghost ring rear sight in case you decide it’s time to get serious. If I had it to do over again, when the battle got close I would have removed the scope and fought it out with the XS sights.
If you are considering or planning a buffalo hunt I’d strongly suggest you read Craig’s book first. You just might learn something and hopefully you will take his advice better than I did. He has more than 100 safaris under his belt and knows more about hunting and shooting buffalo than just about everyone.