When I first met my hunting buddy/husband, Jim, in 1986, we were always talking about what we wanted to hunt, where we wanted to hunt and how much fun we were going to have traveling and bowhunting together. We were sitting at the dinning room table one Sunday afternoon after lunch and he told me to make a list of all the animals I would like to harvest and he would do the same, a bucket list so to speak.
I sat down with pen in hand and carefully thought out which of the species I wanted on my list. Oh I was a house on fire, a whitetail buck, a bull elk, a mule deer, an American bison, an antelope, a black bear, and there were a few others. It took me about twenty minutes to write them down. I was so proud of my list and I slid it across the table to him. He looked at the list for a long moment and said “Is this your list?” “Yeah, what do you think of it, pretty cool animals huh” was my reply. He just smiled.
While I was intently writing my list he walked into the den and retrieved a legal pad, I didn’t pay much attention to it, since I was busy dreaming on my piece of paper.
He slide my piece of paper back to me and then slid me his legal pad, his list was as long as a beach towel! I had never even heard of some of the animals on his list and I sure didn’t know where they lived. He had been working on his list for a very long time.
One of the things that did pique my curiosity was several different species of buffalo on his list. American Bison, Cape Buffalo and Asian Water Buffalo stood out. With some of the other animals that he had on his list I was beginning to see he liked animals that offered a great hunt but also served up a heavy dose of danger.
This past April Jim was able to check off one of those animals from his bucket list. He was going after an Asian Water Buffalo. Jim put in a lot of time and effort to find Asian Water Buffalo on this side of the world, on his terms. He spent almost two years calling outfitters, guides and hunters. He wanted to hunt an older resident herd.
After much research and the help of SCI information, he found Wilderness Hunting Lodge in Monterey, Tennessee. Not only was if affordable, it was only one state away, not on the other side of the planet. We talked to the owner, Alan Wilson and he said that we were more than welcome to come and go after the beast with a bow, which is exactly what Jim had hoped for.
These ‘bad attitudes on hoofs’ weigh anywhere from 1600 to over 2000lbs and are not known for their sunny disposition. They would rather trample and gore you to death than to have you in their presence. Of course Jim wanted the full hunting experience with the nasty beast; he was going to stalk Mr. Friendly.
We arrived at Wilderness Hunting Lodge in a shroud of fog after dark which should have given us a clue of what was to come. Jim would be guided on this hunt by Bruce Wilson who is Alan brother. Bruce was also my guide on my American Bison hunt, so we knew him and Jim was very comfortable with him and trusted him.
Wilderness Hunting Lodge has wonderful accommodations in both their main lodge and their cabins. Their beautiful log lodge sits across the road from the main lodge and has all the comforts of home and the views are breath taking. They offer three meals of great southern cooking and the entire time we were there we never heard one person say they left the table hungry.
We met at the main lodge the next morning at 7:00am for a hardy breakfast and meet Bruce. I don’t think Jim slept at all the night before the hunt and if he did I am sure he was dreaming of the dark looming figure he was about to come face to face with. As Bruce and Jim headed out one thing was for sure, it would be a very interesting day. The fog was so thick you could not see your hand in front of your face, nothing like a little added adventure on a hunt. There was also a light drizzle of rain and as the morning progressed, the temperature dropped and it began to snow.
The fog and bad weather was both friend and foe, there was no doubt Jim could slip through the woods undetected but that works both ways. Asian Water Buffalo are extremely large animals but are very stealthy and the fog was going to play in their favor.
As Bruce and Jim stalked slowly though the edge of the wood line they could make out faint figures in the distance. Jim made sure he kept his Mathews Z-7, set at 72lbs and shoots a 540grain Carbon Express Maxima 350 made special for this hunt. Each was tipped with a razor sharp 220 grain Muzzy Phantom broadhead. Upon closer inspection it was a small herd of American Bison, not what they were looking for. So they continued their quest.
As the morning wore on the temperature was in the low 40’s and the fog slowly began to lift which made everyone a little more at ease. There was a lot of ground covered and glassing done during the morning hunt for the illusive beast but like the fog the water buffalo seemed to evaporate into the mist. Bruce suggested going in for lunch and continuing the hunt that afternoon.
The low sun did not bring much heat for the day but the afternoon hunt was beginning to look promising. Bruce and Jim spotted a herd of Asian Water Buffalo in the distance and began their methodical stalk. As they approached, the herd sensed their presence and put themselves in a defensive circle. They position themselves so that their hindquarters are together with their noses facing out to make a circle. This way there are eyes and ears all the way around the circle to catch any movement and to protect themselves against predators.
Jim and Bruce glassed the herd for a long time after they got into position; they were about 100 yards away. A shot would have been impossible with all the buffalo so close together. At this point Bruce and Jim stayed hid in the tree line and watched the herd. After what seemed like days the herd began to settle down, the wind was in Jim’s favor and he was content watching them as they slowly began to disband.
There was one bull in this herd the rest were cows, the bull however was young. Bruce had told Jim that there were two herds on the ranch and since we had several days left in the hunt Jim decided to wait and see if they could find the other herd.
It was getting to dark to see the pins on the Sure-Loc Max ST sight so Jim and Bruce headed back to the main lodge for supper and to make a plan for the following morning.
The day dawned and again the sky was overcast and the fog looked like something straight out of a horror movie. After breakfast Bruce and Jim headed out to see if they could find the second herd of Asian Water Buffalo. As they slowly stalked the side of the mountain they made their way up to the tree line on the edge of a field. The fog, again, was so thick they held their position and Jim glassed with his Leupold 10×32 binoculars to give him a little advantage. The fog would begin to lift and then settle back down. It was impossible to get more than just a glimpse of what, if anything was in the field. As the morning wore on the sun began to break through which gave a little more light, the temperature was in the low 40’s again which seemed to only fuel the fog.
Bruce and Jim continued to walk the side of the mountain and repositioning themselves to come up at different points in the edge of the wood line around the huge field. They would stop for long intervals and glass hoping to spot the herd. There was a brief moment the fog lifted and there was a huge figure looming at about 80 yards, it was a water buffalo. The fog rolled right back in and the infamous beast seemed to disappear. Jim saw it long enough to know that he wanted to make a play on the massive beast. He told Bruce what he wanted to do and they glassed several more minutes to see if they could see the rest of the herd. As they watched the lone buff they could tell it was a mature cow and Jim really like the horn configuration. Bruce and Jim stayed in the tree line for several more minutes. They wanted to make sure it would be safe to put a stalk on the buffalo.
After more glassing it seemed that the buff was by itself so Jim decided to make a play and use the fog to what he hoped would be his advantage. He had to get closer and in the huge field there was nothing to hide behind if the buff charged. It would take all Jim’s wit, his stalking abilities, and a perfect wind to help him get into position for a shot. He wanted to be within 60 yards for a shot. He knew his equipment would deliver if he could get into position.
Jim waited until the fog rolled back in and began a slow move into position. The water buff had his hind quarters to Jim and the wind and thermals were in Jims favor. The fog was keeping Jim cloaked from the beast and he slowly made his way across the field. His QAD Ultra Rest HD was in the capture position to hold his arrow in place so he was ready for whatever twist of fate might bring him.
He was within 60 yards and the buffs instincts told her that something was wrong and she wheeled around in Jim’s direction. Jim stopped and lowered himself closer to the ground; the fog was just thick enough to where she could not make him out. Jim never moved and waited and hoped she would get comfortable and graze.
She stood there and glared trying to make out anything that was out of place. It seemed as if she was staring a hole through Jim but he never faltered, he remained motionless. He was hoping she would not charge, the only shot he would have then would be a chest shot. He was prepared to take that shot if necessary.
Bruce told Jim that the buff would weigh 1800lbs or more, she was massive and did not seem to be in a very good mood. She would graze a few seconds and they lift her head, look down her nose and just stare in Jim’s direction. Every time she would lower her head to graze Jim would take a few steps to close the distance and to position himself for a broadside shot. This game of cat and mouse seemed to go on forever, but patience always pays off.
The fog rolled in again and Jim made a pretty aggressive move, when the fog lifted again he was 58 yards from her broadside. As the fog rolled out he drew his Z-7 and let the Carbon Express fly, it flew true and hit right behind the shoulder. On an Asian Water Buffalo their bone structure is very different than most animals. There is very little space between their ribs; they have an almost solid rib cage for protection. So your shot has to be in just the right place to get the penetration you need for a quick harvest.
Just as Jim’s arrow hit with a loud THWACK, the fog rolled back in and all he could hear were hoofs beating the ground. Jim had already reloaded and was ready if she charged but he could tell the sound was going in the opposite direction and not toward him. He and Bruce began to slowly stalk the direction of the sound and when they fog lifted again they were 50 yards from the beast and she was still standing but now she was facing them. The look on her face let Jim know real quick that she was going to settle the score. Jim drew his bow and took two steps to give him a quartering shot, he delivered the 220 grain Phantom broadhead to her heart, and she whirled to run but did not make it far before she expired.
As Jim approached her there was no ground shrinkage at all, if anything she grew. She was massive and her horn configuration was almost perfect, female’s horns are not as heavy but they are usually longer and hers did not disappoint. Bruce estimated her to be about 9 years old and to weight between 2000 and 2300lbs. When Jim hunts he is not after the largest animal with the most massive horns or antlers he looks for animals that offer unique horn configuration and a good representative of their species. If cows are legal then it does not matter to him if it is a cow or bull. He knows the importance of harvesting the females; it helps keep the herd in balance. A great thing about hunting state side is that you can take home all the meat not just the cape and horns or antlers.
What a hunt, what an adventure and what a beautiful Asian Water Buffalo. Jim said that staring into her eyes would make your blood run cold. The thrill of taking a dangerous animal with your bow is a feeling that can not be explained only experienced.
As for the 25 year old bucket list, another animal has been marked off thanks to Alan and Bruce Wilson and Wilderness Hunting Lodge. We both look forward to hunting with them again.
If you are interested in information or booking a hunt call:
Wilderness Hunting Lodge
Phone: Lodge 931-839-2091
931-979-0057 (Lynn Melton: Guide)