Hunting Cape buffalo in South Africa

Hunting Cape buffalo in South Africa

Hunting Cape buffalo in South Africa is most certainly the most dangerous animal of the Big 5, Dangerous 6 or the Dangerous 7 to hunt.  Robert Ruark aptly described the African Cape buffalo in his book: Horn of the Hunter“But that buff is so big and mean and ugly and hard to stop, and vindictive and cruel and surly and ornery. He looks like he hates you personally. He looks like you owe him money.”

Hunting Cape buffalo in South Africa with your very experienced African Professional Hunter (PH) is the real deal. This is the ultimate African dangerous game hunting. If you have health issues we will hunt according to your abilities.

The wry smile from a hunter when the words Cape buffalo are mentioned indicates the high regard these animals demand from hunters all over the world.

After many years hunting Cape buffalo in South Africa and Zimbabwe we concur with Ruark. During our dangerous game hunts there have been several incidents of which Cape buffalo have been most noteworthy.

Cape buffalo are mean, vengeful and downright nasty animals in general. They particularly become more annoyed when wounded. Consequently, always use enough gun when hunting Cape buffalo.

Follow this link to our discounted Cape buffalo hunting packages.

Solid Cape buffalo hunting advice

Please be advised from the onset your Professional Hunter may have to back you up in the event of a dangerous situation. In the event of a Cape buffalo charge the PH will certainly protect you and those on the hunting safari.

Furthermore, please familiarize yourself on shot placement on Cape buffalo. The effective area where to shoot a buffalo is rather large with room for limited error. To minimize the risk of a wounded Cape buffalo, use the correct caliber when hunting Cape buffalo South Africa.

Further along this page is good advice with regards to hunting Cape buffalo South Africa. Cape buffalo hunting is one of the most dangerous of African dangerous game animals. Treat them accordingly.

Be safe, be sure and enjoy being incredibly aware of your surroundings on your Cape buffalo hunt.

Watch the Cape buffalo hunting video where the Cape buffalo charges the hunter. In the blink of an eye the buffalo charges from 23 paces and is finally stopped at four paces from the hunter. Be aware. Stay alive.

Cape buffalo hunting prices

Cape buffalo hunting prices South Africa increases in some cases according to the spread of the horns. As a result, the larger the horn spread the higher the trophy fee. The magical spread of 40” and above is the decider between the usual listed price and an increased price.

Cape buffalo hunting prices South Africa 2020 start at US$ 8 500-00 which includes:

We aim to offer affordable Cape buffalo hunts at reasonable Cape buffalo hunting prices.

Cape buffalo ammunition

We recommend you only use premium grade ammunition when hunting Cape buffalo in South Africa.

Our preferred ammunition manufacturer is Barnes TSX in just about any weight. Other premium grade ammunition manufactures you can use would be Federal Premium, Nosler Partition, Sierra and others.

The reason we keep hammering on using premium grade ammunition is:

In South Africa if you shoot at an animal and blood is drawn, the animal is considered bought and paid for. If you use cheap ammunition that is inferior and causes blood to be drawn you pay even if we do not find it.

Cape buffalo gun scope

Many dangerous game hunters prefer to hunt dangerous game with open sights. However, some hunters may lose a little of their usual 20/20 vision over time and consequently may prefer to hunt with a rifle scope.

There are numerous gun scopes and gun scope brands available on the market today. Leupold and Swarovski optics certainly provide more light under darker conditions. However, you should purchase the optics you can afford. The single most important issue is the scope must be able to withstand the magnum size recoil once you squeeze the trigger.

A 1.5 – 5 X 20 gun scope should be sufficient for a Cape buffalo gun. Almost all Cape buffalo are hunted at sub 60-yard ranges. Gun scopes with larger ranges are not required.

Best caliber for hunting Cape buffalo in South Africa

Get a cold one, some snacks and sit in your most comfortable chair. Once anybody starts debating which is the absolute best caliber for hunting Cape buffalo in South Africa (or any other country for that matter), it will become a long day or night.

From the outset, we are not going to debate which calibers are best for which reasons. We are going to state the facts as they are based on practical hunting experience having hunted Cape buffalo for more than 20 years.

Second to caliber would be shot placement. If you use a large caliber rifle and shoot a Cape buffalo up the rear, chances will be slim you will pick it up where it stood. There must be a distinct balance between using the correct caliber and shot placement.

A 375 H&H or any other larger caliber is the minimum legal caliber to hunt dangerous game with in most African countries. It is our recommendation to use any caliber from 400 and up if you feel comfortable using it. Make sure you use enough gun when hunting Cape buffalo.

There are many debates on 375 vs 9,3 X 62 and even 9,3 X 74. It is our opinion that that the 9,3 calibers are sufficient for Cape buffalo hunting. However, in South Africa the law clearly states that 375 is the minimum caliber permitted to hunt Cape buffalo.

We are often asked about our opinion on using a 45-70 on Cape buffalo. Yes, this caliber falls within the ambit of being a legal hunting caliber for hunting Cape buffalo in South Africa.

The best caliber rifle to hunt Cape buffalo with is the one you know best.

Use a large bore rifle that you can shoot accurately and feel comfortable using.

We consider the following as the best calibers for hunting Cape buffalo in South Africa:

  • 375 H&H using a minimum bullet weight of 300 gr traveling at a muzzle velocity of about 2 600 feet per second (fps). Only use Barnes TTSX, Nosler Partition, Sierra GameKing, Federal Premium and other premium grade ammunition.


  • 45-70 using a minimum bullet weight of 350 gr to 450 gr traveling at a muzzle velocity of between 1 800 fps and 1 650 fps respectively.  Only use premium grade ammunition.


  • 416 Rigby using a minimum bullet weight of 400 gr traveling at a muzzle velocity between 2 500 fps and 2 650 feet per second (fps). Only use Barnes, Swift A-frame and Hornady premium grade ammunition.


  • 458 Win Mag and 458 Lott – our best results have consistently come from using Barnes TSX 500 gr ammunition at slightly shy of 2 400 fps.


  • 500 Jeffrey and 505 Gibbs or any other comparable calibers for hunting Cape buffalo. Only use premium grade ammunition like Barnes, Nosler Partition, Federal Premium and others. For these two calibers use 535 gr and 525 gr respectively anywhere between 2 400 fps and 2 300 fps respectively.


Follow this link for a comprehensive list of caliber recommendations

Cape buffalo hunting best caliber
Best caliber for hunting Cape buffalo
Hunting Cape buffalo prices
Cape buffalo hunting shot placement
Cape buffalo hunting ammunition

Cape buffalo shot placement diagram

Hunting Cape buffalo shot placement diagram South Africa
Broadside shot

Place the shot directly on the shoulder in line with the front leg, one third of the way up from the start of the chest to the top of the back. Such a shot should lead to a high heart shot.

Quartering to

Aim for the inside of the closer shoulder to allow sufficient penetration to hit the vital organs. This is why you need a large caliber rifle. The chest is deep and the brisket is thick.

Quartering away

If the Cape buffalo is not quartering away too much: bisect the angle formed by the front legs and place the shot one third of the distance between the bottom of the chest and the top of the back. A shot from the left of the buffalo will have a better effect because of the location of the liver.

Only attempt this shot if you know where your projectile will end up at inside the buff.

Facing on

Aim for the center of the chest just above the brisket. Head shots should be avoided as far as possible due to the relatively small brain area. If the shot is too high the boss will absorb the energy of the projectile giving a miserable animal a bad head-ache.

Be aware Cape buffalo shake their heads from time-to-time. Make sure you do not hit it in the nose as you will be giving a miserable animal a good reason to charge.

Interesting Cape buffalo facts

When you are finally going to hunt Cape buffalo in South Africa, it will be important to know more on your adversary. Below are a number of interesting Cape buffalo facts that might come in handy.

The information is from personal observations over 24 years, but more scientifically from:

Smithers, R.H.N. 1983. Die soogdiere van die Suider-Afrikaanse substreek. Universiteit van Pretoria 663: 663 – 665

Cape buffalo scientific name Syncerus caffer

Cape buffalo scientific name

The scientific name for Cape buffalo is: Syncerus caffer.

Dwarf or forest buffalo (Syncerus nanus) occur mainly in West Africa.

The Afrikaans name buffel, is derived from the Portuguese name bufalo.

Cape buffalo average shoulder height

Average shoulder height

The average shoulder height of a Cape buffalo bull is around 55”, or 140 cm.

Cape buffalo cows are almost as tall as their male counterparts coming in at around 50”, or 127 cm.

Cape buffalo habitat

Cape buffalo habitat

Habitat requirements for the Cape or savannah buffalo would include a sufficient supply of feed in the form of grass, shade and water.

Buffalo do not prefer large open grass plains where shade is at a premium. Shade is required during the heat of the day while resting up.

Cape buffalo frequently drink water. Usually twice a day while feeding in the vicinity of the water source. They love mud wallows that are important for body temperature regulation

Cape buffalo distribution in Africa

Cape buffalo distribution

Cape buffalo distribution in the southern sub-Sahara region occurs from the far North eastern parts of Namibia on to the border with Botswana.

In Botswana they occur naturally along the whole northern part of the country, the Okavango delta and more South to Lake Ngami and the Makgadikgadi pans,

In Zimbabwe Cape buffalo are commonly found in the northern and North eastern parts. A concerted effort was begun to restrict Cape buffalo movement in that region in an effort to curb hoof-and-mouth-disease.

In Mozambique Cape buffalo are found sporadically South of the Zambezi river in the northern, central and South western parts in the Inhambane district.

In South Africa the largest populations of Cape buffalo are found in the eastern parts of the country and further South from there to the border with Swaziland. Large populations occur in the Hluhluwe and Umfolozi game preserves in the Natal province.

Cape buffalo reproduction

Cape buffalo reproduction

Cape buffalo cows become receptive at the age of about three years. After a gestation period of 330 – 346 days when mostly a single calf is born with an average body weight of 88 pounds or 40 kg.

Most cows only start producing calves at the age of five years and older. Cows calve every alternate year.

Although calving is not restricted to a specific time of year, calving peaks mainly occur between January and April when the feed reaches optimum protein quality.

Cows suckle their offspring for about 15 months when it is almost time for the new calf to arrive.

Cape buffalo behavior

Cape buffalo behavior

Cape buffalo are gregarious. This means they prefer to hang around in groups ranging in size from between 2 500 animals in a single herd (Wankie National Park) and roughly 3 000 animals in the Savuti in Botswana.

Large herds like these tend to have season movements constantly looking for better feed and more permanent water sources.

Old and younger bulls are known to split from a main herd and form their own independent bull herds. However, the younger generation would be weary of staying with the big bulls, called dagga boys. Dagga boys are usually short tempered and will not hesitate to attack young inexperienced bulls.

Solitary bulls tend to be extremely bad tempered and can charge unprovoked. These solitary dagga boys mainly fall prey to lion prides.

Dagga is an old African term used as a reference to cement used when stacking bricks. It tends to have the same color as the mud frequently found on buffalo due to their love of a good wallow. With the same color as dagga, these bovines earned the dagga boy nickname.

Hunting Cape buffalo South Africa general information

Much is said by those who have hunted Cape buffalo successfully. This is great. But what about the thoughts, suggestions and advice from those who consistently hunt dangerous game in general, and Cape buffalo specifically?

If you are embarking on your first Cape buffalo hunt, talk to your Professional Hunter about different scenarios, specially where safety is involved. Make sure you know what is expected of you – many times it is the visiting hunter that gets to save lives. Be prepared to do it.

Make sure you are prepared for numerous situations with regards to taking a shot quickly, or lying down, or from a tree and even from the tracker’s shoulder.

Enjoy your hunt. Be sure. Be safe.


Tips for hunting Cape buffalo South Africa

Larger Cape buffalo herds can be more difficult to stalk for obvious reasons. Solitary bulls (often referred to as dagga boys) can be extremely aggressive and may charge unprovoked. Bachelor herds of between three and 10 animals are common and are equally as difficult to stalk. Archery hunting Cape buffalo is on the increase and in such a case you can hunt Cape buffalo from a hide or blind or walk-and-stalk for a more traditional bow hunting experience.

Any sudden movements will attract the attention of a weary buffalo so try and keep the Mopane flies away from your eyes, ears and nostrils. If you are hunting 2 X 1 it will be common courtesy for the second hunter to refrain from accompanying the tracker, PH and first hunter on the final approach.

Often a dead give-away to the presence of Cape buffalo will be the sound of the red-billed ox-peckers. Somehow these birds do not have the ability to keep quiet and with their excited chattering they can lead the hunters directly to where Cape buffalo are.


Best time of year to hunt Cape buffalo

Traditionally the bush in the best Cape buffalo hunting areas is rather dense during our summer months from November to May. From June to August the bush starts to recede rather quickly. During September and October the daily temperatures start rising while the bush recedes to a minimum. The best time of year for hunting Cape buffalo South Africa is late June to end October.

We can and do hunt Cape buffalo from January to December.


Average shot distance

The average expected shooting distance when hunting Cape buffalo in South Africa is 20 to 60 yards depending on the terrain.

Below are two of our Cape buffalo hunting videos. Feel free to experience the adrenaline with us!

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