Africa’s Most Dangerous
Kevin Robertson (Safari Press, 2007, 244 pages.)
Reviewed by Ken Bailey
Much of African hunting literature is of the “Me and Joe” variety, books chock-full of tales describing the hunting adventures of the author. On occasion, however, someone pens a well-researched “how-to” book that is intended to inform, rather than entertain. And on very rare occasions, that book is so thorough and well-written that it is destined to become a classic. Such if the case with Kevin Robertson’s Africa’s Most Dangerous – The Southern Buffalo (Syncerus cafer cafer.)
Kevin Robertson is a familiar name to anyone with more than a passing interest in contemporary African hunting, and his experiences as a veterinarian, PH, rancher, researcher and author make him uniquely qualified to make meaningful comment on virtually every aspect of it. Many will know him from his earlier books, among them The Perfect Shot and The Perfect Shot II, which should be required reading for all hunters before their first African safari.
Robertson’s long-held passion for buffalo originated when, as a veterinarian, he was active in controlling hoof and mouth disease as part of the Zimbabwean government’s interest in protecting the country’s beef exports to the European Union. This required considerable engagement with the disease’s host, the southern buffalo. Africa’s Most Dangerous is a compilation of all that Robertson learned about buffalo through the many phases of his professional life, and is the ultimate “how-to” guide for hunting these iconic animals.
As might be expected of someone with a scientific background, there’s not a lot of ambiguity here; Robertson states his opinions with the confidence of one who’s been there and done that; he knows whereof he speaks. He goes to great lengths to teach the reader about buffalo before he ever delves into discussion about hunting them—their ecology, distribution and anatomy are all covered in detail. Do you struggle differentiating cows from bulls, or evaluating trophy quality? You won’t after reading Robertson’s descriptions. Robertson has made a name for himself as an advocate for hunting old, mature bulls rather than succumbing to the appeal of shooting a wide, potentially high-scoring bull that yet to experience his prime breeding years. You’ll learn how to tell a past-his-prime bull from an up-and-comer, and why Robertson believes so passionately that we should target only the oldest.
As would be expected in a book about hunting buffalo, Robertson dedicates a lot of space to his recommendations for rifle, cartridge, bullet and optics choices. His cartridge evaluations, in particular, are supported by a detailed examination and listing of sectional density, KO values, recoil energy and more, once again revealing his reliance on science to support his opinion.
The chapter on shot placement is a must-read for every buffalo hunter and is supported by photos with drawings of skeletal and organ locations superimposed. Borrowing from his The Perfect Shot books, at a glance he reveals exactly where to aim to stop a charging buff, and where, precisely, to aim at buffalo standing at every conceivable angle. Bowhunters aren’t ignored here, either; he illustrates where to place your arrow for maximum effect.
Other insightful chapters deal with subjects as diverse as recommended accessories/clothes to pack, how to prepare both mentally and physically to hunt buffalo, and what to expect on a typical, or not so typical, day’s hunt. He also addresses the often contentious issue of if, when and how a PH should back-up a client, and how to handle your trophy to ensure it arrives home in pristine condition.
No book on buffalo would be complete without a section on what to expect and how to respond when you have a wounded buffalo to sort out, and Robertson doesn’t disappoint. While not underplaying the danger involved, his matter-of-fact recommendations and advice actually have a calming effect; anyone having to settle a wounded buffalo would do well to read this just before heading in to the thick stuff.
One of the wonderful qualities of Africa’s Most Dangerous is the absolutely superb selection of phots. There are lots of them, and they’ve clearly been purposefully selected to support the text; you won’t read anything that isn’t reinforced and explained with clear images.
The dangerous game animal that most hunters pursue first in Africa is the Cape buffalo. Some shoot only one or two before moving on to other dangerous game, while for others, their first buffalo leads to an addiction they can never shake. Robertson clearly has that bug, and he quotes no less than Robert Ruark when he states, “But such is his (the buffalo’s) fascination that, once you’ve hunted him, you are dissatisfied with other game, up to and including elephant.”
Whether dreaming of your first buffalo hunt, addicted to them, or somewhere in between, you owe it to yourself to read Africa’s Most Dangerous.