Boddington’s Adventures

It's rare that a hunter is faced with a buffalo charge, but it can happen, and you must be ready.

By Craig Boddington

Robert Ruark had it right. The Cape buffalo does look at you like you “owe him money.” He is a magnificent animal, always tough and sometimes incredibly brave, and he has a fearsome reputation. The reality, however, is that facing a determined charge is not a normal end to most buffalo hunts. Hunting in the 1950s and early 1960s, when bag limits were much higher than today, Ruark shot a lot of buffalo. I believe there is a passage where he stated that he had taken more than a hundred, and in the period he hunted in I don’t question the number. Although badly mauled by a leopard (in India, not in Africa), I don’t recall Ruark relating a first-person account of a genuine close call with a buffalo.

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Long-range shooting equipment is better than ever, but some shots are still too far.

By Craig Boddington

A guide I hunted with recently told me a really horrible story. He was guiding an elk hunter, and they got onto a bull at 600 yards, which I hope most of us agree is a long shot at a game animal. The problem was the hunter and his buddies were outfitted for extreme-range shooting, and it was really important to this guy that he be able to claim the longest shot in camp. So, against the guide’s judgment and advice, and at the hunter’s insistence, they backed off a full 300 yards so the hunter could take the shot at--gulp!--900 yards. I guess there is justice: He missed.

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Is the .375 or the .416 a better choice for African buffalo?

By Craig Boddington

My buddy Zack Aultman had just shot a nice buffalo on the edge of the herd, and followed up his first shot perfectly. We didn’t have to worry about that one but, as sometimes happens, the herd stood, milling uncertainly. Amid the two or three hundred buffalo were several more good bulls, so I replaced Zack on the sticks and we started sorting through them. Some that had beautifully shaped horns were still too young, but after a few seconds we found a beautiful bull a bit right of the herd’s center. Although surrounded by other buffalo he was on our edge of the herd, so we focused on him. When he turned broadside I held a third up into the chest, near the center of the shoulder, and squeezed the trigger.

The hit sounded good and the reaction looked good, but he was immediately covered up in the press. There was no chance for a second shot, but as the herd stampeded we could see him losing ground. Just as he came clear he started to wobble, and then pitched forward, nose first.

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A backpack hunt in Alaska will test you--and your gear--to the utmost.

By Craig Boddington

Donna and I just returned from a backpack hunt in northern Alaska, where we were treated to unseasonably horrible weather. In mountain hunting you must be able to see, and we had day after day of rain, snow, and low clouds. Hey, that happens, but it was a good exercise (with lots of exercise). As I think back, it’s been a long time since I did a pure backpack hunt in steep country; maybe too long! Now at sixty-something and five years post-heart attack, it was a great feeling to realize I could still do it. For Donna it was a new experience, and an equally good feeling for her to know that she could handle it.

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Should you try to come up with the "perfect" rifle for your hunt, or choose a versatile rig that will work for a variety of situations?

By Craig Boddington

I have friends and colleagues to whom the hunting rifle is about as interesting a tool as a shovel. They’re focused on the hunt, and whatever tool is in their hands they will make work. I actually envy them, because I’m an inveterate rifle nut. I spend sleepless nights agonizing over the exact right rifle, cartridge, load, and scope for an upcoming hunt.

The reality is, in any given situation there are a whole bunch of setups that will work just fine, and you have to be pretty offbeat for a choice to become wildly unsuitable. Even so, as a rifle nut,  I fantasize about taking the exact, perfect rig for a given hunt, and when I can I work pretty hard to make sure my choice is close. The problem is that the situation you envision may not be even close to the situation you have to deal with.

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