Economical Buffalo Hunts

Question:

Where are the most economical buffalo hunts found in Africa today?

—J.D., Flint, MI

Answer:

In my experience, there are two types of buffalo hunts. There are good buffalo hunts, and then there are cheap (or economical) ones. With this in mind, I’m naturally wary when asked to recommend a “good, cheap” buffalo hunt. The current demand for buffalo hunting is so great that such a thing does not in my opinion exist--and if it does, I’m naturally suspicious.

This point was recently brought home to me when a Norwegian booking agent came to visit. Our conversation quickly turned to buffalo and shortly thereafter the embarrassing “what good, cheap hunts can you offer?” question was raised. I told him that a 7-day hunt for a mature bull in Mozambique will currently cost somewhere in the region of $11,000 to $ 12,000.

“But I can get such a hunt elsewhere for $ 6,000,” he said.

“So, what are these hunts like?” I countered.

“Well, the first client I sent there did not get a buffalo. He returned for a second time the following year, and still did not get one,” was his somewhat embarrassed reply.

“So in reality, your client has spent $ 12,000 and two sets of airfares, and still has not shot a buffalo. Why not just spend this amount in the first place and be almost assured of bringing home a trophy?”

Somewhat understandably, the Norwegian did not visit for long.

When it comes to sport hunting, such penny-wise, pound-foolish attitudes simply do not make sense to me.

Here are the facts: For the services of a reputable outfitter, and an experienced dangerous-game PH, expect to pay a daily rate of somewhere in the region of $1,000 per day. This amount can vary from country to country, but it’s a good ballpark figure to work on in areas with good buffalo numbers. Such is the demand for buffalo these days that short, five-day hunts seem to be a thing of the past. The shortest will now be seven days of actual hunting. Some operators have even gone to ten days as the minimum length for a buffalo hunt.

To the daily rate charges, add the trophy fee for a bull buffalo, and this will be in the region of $2,500. There may also be government license fees, rifle and ammo importation costs, trophy handling, dipping and packing charges, maybe even a concession or conservation fee as well, all of which will quickly add on another grand or two. So you’re suddenly up to the amount I mentioned earlier, and more if it’s a 10-day hunt. Remote safari areas may require small plane charter fees as well, and this can add to the overall cost significantly.

In good buffalo areas, where it’s usually easy to shoot two within a week-long hunt, I’ve long believed 2 x 1 hunts (two hunters and one PH) to be good value. Not only does this make the daily rate per hunter a bit cheaper, but it also allows each to effectively “hunt” two buffalo. In the past, I’ve had such clients back each other and this effectively doubles their buffalo hunting experience for the dollars they pay. In my opinion, this makes such hunts a good deal. Choice of hunting partner is obviously important for such occasions, but I believe in the saying “A pleasure shared is a pleasure doubled.”

Whether a 1x1 or a 2x1 hunt, remember, buffalo hunting is all about having fun and enjoying the ultimate wildlife experience. This is where your choice of outfitter and PH can and will make all the difference. A really good PH can transform an average buffalo hunt into an unforgettable, life-changing occasion. Understandably, those with the reputations for this tend to more expensive. This is simply because they are good at what they do, and therefore in demand.

So, to answer the original question, let me end by saying that both good and economical buffalo hunts are available in all countries where Syncerus is sport-hunted. My advice is that you should first find the outfitter and/or PH with whom you’ll “click” and who’ll make your hunt a special one. Once you have, pay what he asks.  If the hunt ends up costing a bit more, so what, it’ll be worth it. I do not believe you can put a monetary value on something that will change your life for the better.

To make your final decision solely on the cost of the hunt, regardless of whom it’ll be with, just to save a grand or two is not the way to go about such things.

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