'02 Zim Cape buff & leopard hunt


Oct 20, 2004
This is the story behind the Cape buff photo I posted in the favorite game animal thread, so as requested I am adding the details. The whole shooting match ran in African Hunter in 2003.

The .375 H&H in the 21st Century

The .375 Holland & Holland Magnum is long in the tooth, having been introduced by Holland in 1912 with the title Belted Rimless Magnum; however, that tooth is now even deadlier thanks to the proliferation of super premium game bullets. Ganyana profiled this classic in v5#6, African Hunter Classic Cartridges Part X - The .375 H&H Magnum. My purpose in this article is three-fold: to recognize the position of this cartridge at the start of the 21st century; to review its performance in the field using my most recent hunt as the example; and to discuss Holland's .400 H&H and .465 H&H cartridges.

The "All Around" Big Game Cartridge

As we enter the year “twenty ought three” of the 21st Century we mostly hunt with rifle designs originating in the 1890s, and with the .375 H&H a cartridge developed in 1912. It isn’t the case that we have had no innovation in rifles or cartridges since the turn of the 20th Century; it is the case that some designs and their implementations are so efficient and effective that in their use they resemble the Energizer Bunny – they just go on and on and on.

The .375 H&H is such a cartridge. This is recognized by the number of types and brands of rifles chambered for it, the number of brands and types of ammunition loaded for it and the worldwide distribution of both. The one-gun hunter who chooses the .375 H&H can be assured of finding ammunition wherever he hunts. Thus many judge the .375 H&H to be the “all around” big game cartridge.

The major difference in the performance of this cartridge now compared to 1912, however, is found in the quality of the bullets being loaded today. Multiple manufacturers have developed their own wonder bullets – which are usually called “super premium bullets”. These bullets are “force multipliers” for the .375 H&H in the hunting field. The major ammunition makers (except for Winchester) have decided not to develop their own super premium bullets, instead they have made arrangements to load bullets made by others. Winchester has its own design, the FailSAfe, and has also licensed technology from Nosler. Federal bought the Trophy Bonded design, and with the consolidation in the arms industry Speer is making and selling the TB design to reloaders.

Getting ready for my hunt I laid in a stock of factory .375 H&H ammunition. I have two .375 H&H rifles: a BRNO M602; and a Kimber M89 BGR. I call the Kimber my North America rifle because it is three-down, and is scope-sighted only. I call the BRNO my Africa Rifle because it is five-down and has back-up iron sights. At any rate I tested ammunition from both rifles.

I range tested: Remington Premium Safari with the 300 grain Swift A-Frame bullet; Speer Nitrex with the 285 grain Grand Slam bullet; Federal Premium with the 300 grain Trophy Bonded bullet; Federal Premium with the 300 grain Nosler Partition bullet; Federal Premium with the 300 grain Trophy Bonded Sledgehammer Solid; Winchester 300 grain FailSafe bullets; and PMC Eldorado with the 300 grain Barnes X-Bullet.

The X-Bullet and surprisingly to me the FailSAfe fell out early. The X-Bullet was produced under license to Barnes, and it left heavy metal fouling. The FailSafe did not shoot well in my rifles. I was actually expecting to use this bullet as a combination “soft-solid”, so it was on to more testing and Plan B.

The Swift A-Frame shot well, as did the Nosler Partition. I decided to eliminate the NP mostly because I had a lot of experience with them on previous hunts. They shoot well, and kill well. The other soft points all gave acceptable accuracy, but the Swift A-Frame gave very small groups. I chose them and the Trophy Bonded Sledgehammer solids to go hunting.

Leopard and Cape Buffalo in 2002 with Shangaan Hunters

I wrote previously in African Hunter v7#6 about my hunt in 2001 with Shangaan Hunters ("Eland, Shangaan Hunters and the .376 Steyr"). Because of the game I saw I the Savé Conservancy area Shangaan hunts, I decided to return this year to hunt leopard and Cape buffalo. I told outfitter and PH Gordon Duncan that my priority was for the leopard, though. He replied that we had a 90% chance of taking a leopard, and we would take a buffalo with a spread in the 42" to 44" range in our 10-day hunt. I replied that maybe he might be a little less ready to make such promises. The hunt ended up pretty much as a 5-day leopard hunt followed by a 5-day Cape buffalo hunt, although we were looking for buff and buff sign when we were managing leopard baits early on.

I Shot the Seventh Leopard

I motored down to the low veld and the Savé Conservancy with African Hunter publisher Ant Williams and staffer Andrew Fenwick; the trip was nominal, and reminded me mostly of the same journey from 2001. Our drive was about 5 hours, and we bought diesel along the way when it was available. Our route was through Beatrice, Chivu, Gutu, Zaka to the Triangle/Chiredzi junction, and then into the million acres of the Conservancy.

We arrived at Senoku Lodge at 2:30p-ish on September 19, and were greeted by the assembled staff with a cool fruit drink and warm welcomes. River Lodges of Africa owns Senoku Lodge, and Shangaan Hunters hunts from there. Hunters and non-consumptive ecotourists though aren't at the lodge at the same time. Outfitter and PH Gordon Duncan was there, as well as my friend and last year’s PH Kenneth Manyangadze, plus Charles and Joshua our trackers for this year. We promptly saddled up for sight checking, and some leopard bait hanging. I used my Steyr Scout in .308 Win, shooting Norma 180 grain Oryx loads to get some bait impala. These Oryx loads shoot through impala without much sign of expansion.

The annual Conservancy game census was in progress, and the counters reported seeing seven leopard today, and lodge staff saw two more. The area Shangaan hunts had its first hunts in 2001 since the cattle were taken off and the internal fences dropped over ten years ago. The animals behave as you would expect in a natural environment.

We went to the Toma Kopje first because a pair of leopard were seen there, and we indeed found first a female then a large male leopard. We hung two impala at sites at the end of the kopje.

The next morning we were off at about 6:00a to "open Christmas presents" as Gordon describes the anticipation of seeing what the leopard did at the baits. Gordon and Charles were also betting bottles of beer on which baits would be hit. The Toma Kopje baits had the tails bitten off and a few pounds eaten. We took one down for a re-deployment. The Boma bait was hit hard, with big scratches on the tree trunk the bait is wired to. The location got its name because it is close to a boma housing 30 Lichtenstein hartebeest that will be released as a conservation project. Going to and from baits we also kept an eye out for dagga boys seen in the area.

We returned to the Boma blind just before 5:00p, and got ready to wait. We agreed to sit until 10:00p given what the sunset and moonrise times were. About 6:20p we heard baboons making a whoop, but no action at the bait. It was "all quiet on the leopard front" at 10:00p, so Gordon went to get the truck. He could hear elephant noise moving closer, so he brought the truck to the closest point on the road, and we walked the few hundred yards out, and motored back to the Lodge.

I was up at 4:40a on Saturday, September 21, and my digital travel clock reported it is 68 Deg F. We had our coffee and rusks, then off on dawn patrol of baits and cruising for dagga boys. Two of the baits were hit: it looks like the Boma bait was hit around midnight after we left; Toma bait was visited by the female only. We saw her again on the kopje. We are baiting for three different large male leopards now. These guys operate on about a four-day cycle, visiting the various parts of their territories. Our plan is to sit in the Boma Blind again, and we were in place by 5:00p. The afternoon high temperatures are running about 80 Deg F.

The leopard came just after full dark at 6:15p; this was before the moon rose, and it was dark as the inside of a sack. We heard "Knock, knock, knock" from the direction of the blind, and then a very loud "Crunch, crunch" as the leopard started to feed. Gordon checked with his binoculars, then put his Maglite on. He could see the big male on his haunches at the bait, with his back to us. When the light went on, the leopard turned his head to look at it but didn't bolt. I was using my Steyr Scout with its Trijicon 1.25-4X24 scope, and I could not get the damn leopard in the scope! I fumbled around for about 2 minutes before the leopard decided to quit posing and moved off. I was very disappointed at this pass, because it was a very nice cat and such chances don't come every day.

We waited some more, but all we got for our trouble was a honey badger. We decided to sneak out and let the neighborhood quiet down, so we hiked off to the truck. We later met some friends at Sunset Rock for a braai, and I got to explain how I could not get organized to shoot the nice leopard. Excuses are not as good as results! The telling got a bit easier after a sundowner or two. Sunset Rock is several hundred feet high, with steep slopes on three sides but a driveable approach up the back side. It gives a terrific view of a lot of country, and is an excellent braai location. It overlooks the Njerezi River, and Gordon said he always hears at least one leopard calling whenever he is on the rock at night. We hear one tonight that Gordon thinks is the cat he has named "Lion Paws" from the size of his spoor.

Up at 5:00a on Sunday, September 22 -- it is 69 Deg F. It is coffee and rusks again, then we launch for dawn patrol of the leopard baits and Cape buff sign scouting. About 8:30a we found a herd of buff. There is one bull in this group is humungous, at least 45" spread in the horn department, and is a much larger animal than the others. We marked their location for a later stalk, then off we went to hang some bait and to do some blind maintenance. We shot some more impala and did some drag work to advertise the kills. Late in the day we scouted some water sources as we worked our way back to the lodge, and we found another herd of Cape buffalo at one of the water sources -- about 50 head. The heard bull was a big feller too, at least 44" in spread and just plain big. Gordon takes pains to not associate gunfire with the safari vehicles, so the local buff herds don't spook at a vehicle approaching. This gives a good opportunity to look them over when we encounter a group while driving.

Up at 5:00a on Monday, September 23 for dawn patrol, and to "open Christmas presents" checking the leopard baits. We have four big males now that we are working. The Boma Bait was hit, and also the new bait we put near the Njerezi River for Lion Paws. We did some maintenance on the Boma blind, and I re-designed the gun port for better operation and holding the rifle pointing at the bait.

We found some dagga boys and started off on a sneak approach. There were four sable bulls tagging along behind the group. They eventually spooked the buff, so we chalked that stalk up to practice. The high temperatures are running about 80 Deg F, not too bad so close to October. This area has not been hunted for 10 years, and the natural conditions with the animals and the bush are really a joy to experience. We head off to the Boma Blind at 4:15p. We approached the blind from another direction because the consensus is the leopard will approach from a different direction as well. We are in place by 4:45p, and stayed in the blind until 12:00 midnight. We had feeding noises at about 7:00p, but it was a honey badger again. I changed rifles, I have my .375 H&H which has the Trijicon 3-9X40 scope, and I can see the critter plainly through the scope. At about 8:00p we had more feeding noise, and we can see the leopard. He does not settle in for a feed, but only inspects "his" kill and leaves. It was dark from 6:00p to 9:00p, and then the full moon rose.

Up at 5:00a, and 68 Deg F again. Coffee and rusks again too, and off at 5:45a for dawn patrol. The bait we are calling C-4 was hit hard. Circling the adjacent kopje we can see a leopard watching us. It is a big female we decide from obvious size and head shape. The leopard that hit the bait left the scene, and did not go to the kopje. The bait at C-2 was also hit hard, this is the bait we have set for Lion Paws. The Boma bait was not hit, so we will switch our attention to focus on Lion Paws.

We found a dagga boy wallowing. He was not really big enough at 35"-36". He had so much mud on him we could not judge his bosses. We also looked over a cow elephant herd, which seemed to be a nursery school with a flock of calves.

We re-decorated the blind on the Njerezi River so we can sit in it tonight. The blind and bait are 40 yards apart, with the Njerezi River forming the obstacle to keep the cat on the other side. The bait tree overhangs the riverbed, and has a big horizontal section that the cat can sit or stand on to feed. Temperatures are climbing, it is 87 Deg F this afternoon.

We headed out four-ish, passing by the C-4 bait. The big female leopard is up on the kopje keeping an eye out. We stopped on the way to try a test target. My first shot jammed the action. I figured the rifle must have been sun heated because 87 Deg F is not that warm. Sure enough the next shot was "no problemo". I was left to contemplate what you do if you get a jam with a Cape buff in attendance. We are set up by 4:45p, but not much is going on. We do hear some roosting baboons complaining about something, but they settled down. At 7:00p we get a very loud "Crunch, crunch" -- a leopard is on the bait. Gordon pokes me to see if I am ready, and I squeezed his hand to signal yes. He put on the light, and barked "Shoot him!" -- Boom! Even with the recoil of the .375 I watch the leopard through the scope as it catapulted from the tree and somersaulted to the riverbed below. We can hear him scrabbling in the sand, then the death moan leopards make when lung shot. Then just a lot of dark and quiet.

Gordon took his .375 H&H and his Maglight and went to investigate the situation. He was back quickly to report a very dead cat, and a large one at that. The cat is in the bag, let the work begin!

The leopard was on his haunches with his left side to me when the light went on. I held for a double-lung shot. Gordon had coached me to visualize the target aspect of the cat, and consider the three-dimensional presentation when aiming to ensure both lungs are hit. The shot actually caught the left elbow on the way in; the exit was mid-body, a bit further aft because of the angle. Gordon fetched the truck, and we struggled to pick the cat up, and not to drag it and ruin the coat. We weighed it the next day, and it was almost 150 pounds bled out. It measured 7 feet 4.5 inches, and the paws, head and neck were just huge.

Upon further review, we discovered that we had four large leopard that night on four different baits, so any choice would have been a right choice. I also counted back, and found that I had shot the seventh leopard that I had seen – seeing these cats is a wonderful experience. This is the fifth day of the hunt.

We butchered the leopard, and leopard fillet was on the menu for the next two days. We also gave out some to the staff villagers; they were happy to get the leopard. If you haven't tried it, leopard is excellent. It is a fine texture meat, and mild. It was closest to veal or lamb as a comparison (sorry, not like chicken). It is my new favorite camp meat.

Here is the leopard trophy in my living room.

Let’s Hunt Cape Buffalo

We spent the rest of the next day checking watering points to locate buffalo, and we found a herd of about 100 at one at just about dark. We got a fix on them, then left them for tomorrow.

Thursday, September 26, and up at 5:30a. After coffee and rusks we are off on buff patrol at 6:00a. We located a herd about 9:00a, and did a stalk on them. We were on one side of the herd, and constrained by the wind direction as to what we can do. Gordon is running his ash bag constantly. The herd for some reason known to only bovines, turned and fed away from us, so we broke it off. This is scrub mopane country, and these little trees can really limit visibility when you have enough of them -- and we did.

Friday, September 27, and up at 5:00a. It is another warm morning, but it is overcast. We are off at around 6:00a for dawn buff patrol. We are passing by the watering points to check for activity. We found a herd near C-2, and did a stalk to look over the bulls. We are on the herd's right side, and the bulls all seem to be on the left rear. There isn't a way for us to get around without giving them our scent, so we walked back to the track to continue patrol. We have a pattern on this herd, so the plan is to build a blind and ambush them on their way to water this afternoon.

We also found a herd near C-4, but this is a buff herd with a difference. They have a white rhino who considers himself a herd member. This famous old guy is named "Chapinda", and had previously adopted a herd of cows outside the Conservancy, and hung with them for 10 years. He had a flock of ox peckers on his neck doing cleaning on a wound. Quite a sight, and he kept quartering and closing us, so we moved off. We went on to the blind and parked ourselves from 4:00p to 6:00p -- no buff.

Saturday, September 28, and I am up at 4:30a. This is to be Buff Day, and we are leaving early for dawn patrol. The temperature is 71 Deg F, and we had a windstorm and a bit of rain last night. The morning continued overcast and cool, and we found our herd about where we predicted, and did a 2-hour stalk on them. Again we had to balance our movements with their direction and that of the wind. We were pretty sure we knew where and about when they would go to water, so we decided to build another blind. We did that chore and started sitting at noon. About 3:00p Gordon took a sneak to see where the edge of the herd is; they are bedded only a few hundred meters from us. The trackers Charles and Johsua are on the other side of the herd with the vehicle, watching.

Five-ish the herd started drifting by on the way to water. We are only about 75 yards off their path, and they are a noisy, rowdy bunch flowing by. Just like black VWs with horns. Finally we can see the bull we are looking for, and Gordon tells me to shoot. Of course we had to do the mandatory "Is it the third one from the left" routine, but I put a 300 grain Swift A-Frame behind the bull's shoulder. Gordon mandated soft points because of the herd situation. At the shot, buff went every which way. My bull initially went off to our left, the way he was facing, then ran back as most of the buff were going the other way -- to just about where I shot him. Gordon told me to put another shot in, and make sure it is a lung shot. I held a bit higher on the crease to ensure a high lung shot, and shot him again. I was very impressed by an animal that can just stand there and take two 300 grain .375 H&H softs in the boiler room. He was obviously very sick, but he moved off again to our left with a group of 4 or 5 other bulls closing up around him. He was not moving fast at all, and the other bulls were trying to move him along.

We were then crossing the dirt road through that area, we could see the wounded bull with the other bulls in a small patch of scrub mopane on our front. It was more like a little thicker patch of the same stuff that was all around us. In due course the other bulls moved off, and the bull came out on the dirt track about 150 yards from us and collapsed -- I guess he wanted me to see the end of it all. I was definitely impressed! The death bellow was anti-climactic.

Charles and Joshua came up with the truck about then, and we all stood around and admired the bull. I was not at all nervous with the leopard, but this buff hunting was something else again. I told Gordon "I want to do this again". He allowed as how it gets in the blood.


Awesome story and trophies. Thank you for sharing your adventure.
Any plans for another safari?

My wife and I are doing more North America hunts now, and trying to work some of the grandkids in as well.

I expect to hunt Africa again, the first 10 years and five hunts were too much fun not to repeat. Besides I want to hunt buff again.

Great story! Sounds like alot of fun,thanks for sharing that HunterJim :grin:

leopard fillet ? :shock: Whats the best eating african game?

My wife likes gemsbok, and I think reedbuck is really excellent.

Lamb in southern Africa is also really excellent.

I don't know anything about hunting africa,do you get to bring any of the meat back ?Or does it all go to the locals ? Remember reading something about the meat given to the locals :?

Meat goes to the locals, the Agriculture guys don't let you bring meat back into the US from Africa. Don't worry, the locals over there don't waste any meat!

Great hunt Hunterjim, hope and pray I'll get to do a cape buff hunt one day. If I do I'll need to buy another rifle. Bummer have to buy another rifle. Going on a plains game hunt in may. Can't wait. Good hunting

Thank you for sharing with us. I have long read Capstick and the like. And if I ever was to go on a safari, buff would be the ticket for me..

And I certainly would like to read more of your article on the H&H cartirdges. I have always been enamored with big bores and really want a .375 in a #1. Any idea how I can find a copy of the African Hunter magazine you refer too? I am somewhat geographically challenged for easily locating magazines of that genre. Please shoot me a PM if you prefer.


I got the dream in the 7th grade reading John Hunter's book Hunter in the school library. I figured I would hunt Africa for my 50th birthday, but it took a few years more. By the way you can't go just once. I had served in the Navy and had some time in the Horn of Africa and East Africa, but no opportunity to hunt.


The Swift .375"/300 gr A-Frame will not generally exit on a big critter like Cape buff, and mine did not. They expand to a ball shape while the shank slugs up with the deceleration, and that slows them down pretty fast. Even the Nosler Partition can be stopped by enough animal (the only one I have recovered was from just under the hide on a big blue wildebeest.
Jim, do you have a .416 built by Kevin Weaver? I was out there a few weeks ago at his shop and he said he built a rifle for a Hunter Jim. Thought I'd ask since this post rang a bell.
taylorce1":12sclxg4 said:
Jim, do you have a .416 built by Kevin Weaver? I was out there a few weeks ago at his shop and he said he built a rifle for a Hunter Jim. Thought I'd ask since this post rang a bell.

Not me, but I would like another .400. ;)