Every hunt is special sometimes providing a heart-stopping, thrilling chase. Other times, though, the chase takes a backseat to a bigger, more meaningful picture. Our time in Cape Buffalo, South Africa was one such hunt.
This trip’s roots began decades ago for World Champion shooter Stan Pate. Pate struck up a friendship with an older gentleman by the name of Richard Cameron. Their mutual love of hunting made them fast friends. Cameron’s often told stories of previous African Plains game hunts along with his final wish to return to Africa one final time to hunt “Black Death”—the Cape Buffalo.
Cameron purchased a Westley Richards bolt action in .425 WR – a serious game taking rifle –with the sole purpose traveling to Africa for Cape Buffalo. Cameron would pull that rifle out on occasion and Pate marveled at a gun so beautiful it could be a work of art. Pate would soon own the rifle – a purchase made prior to Cameron’s passing along with a promise that he completes the African dream. Pate worked towards the goal, never losing sight of the promise he made nor of his friend’s last wish.
The wheels were in motion and, eventually, the stage was set for an African Safari. After 30 plus hours on a plane, Pate found himself at Waterval Safaris near Kimberley in South Africa. Having successfully hunted Plains Game for more than a week, the thought of the impending Cape Buffalo hunt was alive in his mind. He had been preparing for this moment, both physically—in handloading ammunition for the now obsolete .425 WR—and mentally, playing each possible shot scenario over in his mind.
The day of the hunt was a blur. The entire team was completely focused on every detail of fulfilling Pate’s dream hunt. This was the ending to a story in which everyone, me included, wanted to take part. After several busted stalks and long, hot hours of hunting, professional hunter Boetie Cooper of Waterval Safaris and Stephen Bann of SB Hunting Safaris, got the hunting party face-to-face with the Cape Buffalo.
Before Stan could shoot, the wild-eyed bull was off into some thick brush, pulling us into his territory in a certain ambush. We moved deliberately, taking into account the wind and our scent. After hours of stalking and decades of dreaming, there was the trophy Cape Buffalo standing broadside in the thick brush. Cooper quickly set out the shooting sticks and Stan was on them in a heartbeat. The old gun thundered loud and the bull dropped to his knees. He wasn’t finished, however. The bull somehow got back to his feet and moved into thicker brush.
Pate cycled the bolt and chambered another round, intent on taking down this worthy adversary. Just when we thought the bull had moved off, he turned, facing us. Eye to eye with one of the most dangerous animals on the planet, this was the moment both Pate and the late Cameron dreamed of. Pate’s second shot was as true as the first and the bull fell for good. It wasn’t until later, at the skinning shed, it was revealed Pate’s first shot penetrated the heart of the beast, with the second not far behind.
With the Cape Buffalo on the ground, the hunters allowed Pate several minutes alone with the animal before the rest of the team moved in to celebrate. The moment was fraught with emotion as Pate realized the dream had become reality – not just for himself, but for his friend. As we stood over the bull there was hardly a dry eye knowing what this trophy meant. Pate had honored the memory of his dear departed friend, and each time he looks at that 40-inch Cape Buffalo mount, he’ll relive the dream hunt of a lifetime and a wish granted to a friend.