The Great Buffalo Hunt

by Chris Barnard

He loaded the carefully prepared paper patched round in to his Sharps falling block rifle, pulled up the lever to close the breech, pulled back the hammer to full cock, pulled gently on the set trigger and sighted the rifle, trying as best he could to get a sharp focus between his vernier rear sight and his aperture front sight, his on-going years were not kind to his vision and he strained to get a clear sight picture. To make matters worse, sweat was running down his forehead which in turn attracted a fly, buzzing around to annoy him even more. He tried to wipe away the sweat and discourage the fly with some degree of success, enough for him to be able to concentrate on his aim and finally – take the shot. It didn’t feel good, he pulled to the right, or so he thought.

He held his shot for a few seconds waiting for the smoke to clear. Damn he muttered to himself, the buffalo stood with his head turned toward him with an almost relaxed air about him. What the h—l, he thought to himself, he felt so sure that his shot would have felled the beast, even if he did pull it slightly. So, using his blow tube, he softened the fouling with three long breaths, loaded another round into the chamber and repeated the exercise preparing to take the second shot. This time he felt very confident, he knew that his rounds had been painstakingly assembled, he had a fine set of sights on his rifle and the conditions were very calm, unusually so for the time of year. But he felt the same about his first shot!

Carefully aiming and holding the rifle well into his shoulder, with a good rest on his cross sticks, he finally, gently squeezed the trigger; it didn’t take much, just a touch more than a squeeze. Kaboom! Yet again he held his shot for a couple of seconds and as the smoke cleared, he could see the buffalo still staring at him, almost mocking. He thought it strange that the Bison didn’t move, well maybe a little movement but basically he stayed put and he wasn’t going to move for anyone, not even for the guy to his left who was using a 45-110.

He fired repeatedly, each time with the same result, the bison still standing. He adjusted his sights quite a few times trying to get that hit that counts, but to no avail. He picked up a round and inspected it carefully, all looked fine and dandy. He peered down the bore after giving the rifle a good run through with water and patches to dry it out and all looked in order, no visible signs of fouling or leading. And then he had a thought, a loose front sight, he had seen this before on a rifle owned by a grizzled old gent from up north where the winds really do blow. After a quick examination he noted all was OK, so just what was going on he pondered. He later realised that some of his shots did hit home, it’s just that a bison made out of steel plate, hanging from chains, will never fall over.