This story started in March this year when young Jake Neville moved from the south coast of NSW to the Northern Territory to start a new job. Along with some fishing, hunting was high on the agenda of things to do when time allowed.
Jake is a keen bow hunter and it wasn’t long before a shiny new compound bow and all the associated paraphernalia appeared. Targets were made and practice began in earnest. I watched as Jake proceeded to hit the bullseyes at ranges from 10 metres out to 40 metres with deadly accuracy. It was very impressive.
Jake has used the bow successfully on game from rabbits to sambar deer but this time buffalo were to be the quarry. I have access and permission to hunt on private Aboriginal land that has plenty of buffalo, so when Jake was confident and we had a few days off, a plan was put into place.
I was taking my Browning A Bolt in 375 H&H along, while Jake toted his new Diamond Dead Eye 70 lb compound bow shooting 450 grain arrows tipped with 250 grain broad heads.
It was an early morning start as we had a two hour drive ahead of us to get to prime buff country before the first light of day touched the heavily wooded hills we would be hunting in. This is prime time to spot buffalo as they are still out feeding before they move into the heavy stuff during the heat of the day. Woolly butt and bloodwood trees with two metre high spear grass can make the buff hard to spot. It’s amazing how such a large animal can just appear when a minute before there were none to be seen.
It wasn’t long after we turned the head lights off that we spotted a pair of good buffalo about 500 metres off the corrugated track we were traveling on. Neither animal showed any interest in us so with a quick game plan that involved Jake leading armed with the bow and me following close behind with the 375 H&H, we started a slow stalk on the closest animal.
It was getting very intense as the gap closed and when we reached within 40 metres I sunk down amongst the spear grass and watched as Jake closed the gap down to 25 metres. After watching Jake smack the practice target time after time, I was sure this one was in the bag. The buff turned nicely side on offering Jake a clear shot at the heart/lung area. Slowly Jake raised to full height, drew back, steadied and released, only to see the arrow do a big bend through the air that missed the buff by metres. WHAT THE?! The buffalo sensed things weren’t right and quickly left the scene, leaving Jake and myself looking at one another wondering what had gone wrong. Jake was full of apologies about the miss, but I was more interested in getting his opinion about what had happened. After a bit of think about it, Jake was sure that the arrow had come off the arrow rest, causing it to take its erratic path.
Back in the ‘Troopy’ it was only a short time before we came across another buffalo. This one wasn’t as big as the previous couple but it would still be a worthy challenge to stalk within shooting range. Once again Jake led off, with me hot on his heels. Slowly but surely the distance closed until I propped at around the 50 metre mark, leaving Jake to once again stalk to within 20 metres.
This buff was on to us and stood facing Jake, offering no chance of a shot at his vitals. Once again the tension was building and I made a decision to make myself visible to the buff by walking slowly away at right angles, hoping this would get the buff to follow my movements and allow Jake a shot. This worked perfectly and once again Jake rose to full height, came to full draw and a split second later the dull ‘thunk’ of the bow releasing the arrow came to my ears. I stared at Jake and Jake stared back at me for a few seconds before a broad smile covered his face. He was happy with the placement of the arrow and we waited a few minutes before tracking the path the buffalo had taken. We didn’t take long to pick up the first spots of blood and we slowly followed the ever increasing blood trail. Before too long before we came to the downed buffalo. Although it was on its last breath, we decided to use the 375 as insurance and a shot to the head made sure of it.
High fives and a hand shake ensued. Jake was very happy about fulfilling a long time desire to bag himself an Australian water buffalo. After quite a few photos we walked back to the Troopy to start the drive home. It wasn’t long before the beginnings of the next bow hunt were being discussed.
I have never contemplated using a bow as a hunting weapon, and to tell you the truth I probably won’t – but I’m more than happy to tag along and watch it all unfold. It does get the adrenalin going being in such close quarters to Australia’s largest game animal, but I think I will stick with my rifles. Besides, one of my mates has just purchased a new 450 Rigby. I can’t wait to try that one out!