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Old February 23, 2012, 03:52 PM   #1
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Buffalo Hunting

Not that I am actually interested in doing it myself, but I was thinking about the old buffalo (bison) hunters of the 19th century and the firearms they used. Do any of you know of any good books on the subject that might include info on calibers, powder charges, ranges, etc. I am sort of thinking about buying a buffalo gun, probably in 45-70. This is what got me to thinking about all of this. I don't actually want to shoot a buffalo, just interested in history and guns. Thanks.
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Old February 23, 2012, 08:14 PM   #2
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The ,45-70 is a good place to start, but before long, you'll be wanting a 45-110, a .45-90 and a .50-90, which I understand is the caliber that Billy Dixon used.

There are plenty of links online, and you'd be just as well advised to start your search there. Click on this link, then start clicking other links and you should have several days of good reading.
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Old February 23, 2012, 08:17 PM   #3
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I have studied old west buffalo hunters and outdoorsmen for decades now, as I live deep in buffalo country. While many different calibers were used, there are 4 calibers that stand out in the buffalo harvest. The first 2 calibers that saw early use were the 44-77 Rem, and 50-70 Gov't. The 50-70 is what Buffalo Bill used in his carrer of hunting for the railroad crews. His talley was over 4,000 buffalo. Later the 45-70 and 50-90 Sharps were very popular as well. The "bible" book on buffalo hunting was a small book called "A BUFFALO HARVER" by Frank Mayer. He was an educated man the hunted with some of the biggest names of the day.
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Old February 23, 2012, 08:18 PM   #4
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Woops, I meant Buffalo Harvest not Harver.
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Old February 23, 2012, 08:33 PM   #5
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Ghosts of the past.

You are taking me back to my old Buckskinner days and back then, I was really into the books. There were many fur trapping companies that were all over the Rockies and even up into Canada. Hugh Glass was a hunter for one of these companies as well a Jim Bridger and a whole bunch of other fellas. Sadly my memory is going to pot but I still have some of my old books. Also, look for a book by Janice Holt Giles named The Great Adventure. I know for a fact, that there are a bunch of books on the subject. Also Google "The Buffalo Hunters. These were market hunters that almost wiped out the American Bison. There is a whole range of black powder cartridges use such as the 45/70, 45/90, 110 and bigger loads in the 45's as well as the 50's.

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Old February 23, 2012, 08:40 PM   #6
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IF you don't have your heart set on any of them in particular I would go with the 45/70 just because its the most available today. If there is one you like better than go for that one. I would pick the one that "speaks" to you.

I would still like to get a 45/120 because the really long rounds are very cool and would look good in a bandolier.
Shot placement is everything! I would rather take a round of 50BMG to the foot than a 22short to the base of the skull.

all 26 of my guns are 45/70 govt, 357 mag, 22 or 12 ga... I believe in keeping it simple. Wish my wife did as well...
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Old February 23, 2012, 08:51 PM   #7
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i love the 45/70, i have a marlin 1895 lever, an h&r buffalo classic and a pedersoli sharps. the 45/70 is a blast to shoot and it is available just about everywhere. i haven't shot any of the larger buffalo calibers but i'm sure i would like them as well. my favorite is the pedersoli sharps. all of them shoot well but i shoot the sharps the best. maybe it is the longer barrel or the extra weight but it makes me smile all day long.
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Old February 23, 2012, 09:18 PM   #8
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I did harvest a buffalo with an original Sharpes model 1868 50-70. Results, one shot from a 130 year old cartridge, 3 plus feet of penatration, hundreds of pounds of meat in the freezer.
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Old February 23, 2012, 09:21 PM   #9
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Custer State park (South Dakota) auctions off buffalo every year to thin out the herd. Those suckers are wild.

A few years ago I decided to buy one, bring it home and turn it loose in my back pasture. Give it a couple days to settle down then hunt it with my Remington Rolling Block in 44-90 Sharps Bottle neck.

Didn't work that way. I got the sucker in my trailer and he wasn't happy. Pulled into the yard and wifey and granddaughter decide its hungry and throw some hey in the trailer. Sucker went balistic. Dern near tore my trailer apart.

I figured if I turned it loose, I'd be fixing fences for days. So I parked the trailer in my roping arena and called my neighbor taxadermy guy to tell me where to shoot it without ruining the cape for a mount.

He tells my forget the rifle, use a pistol and shoot him in the head. I did, friggin bullet bounced off. (150 gn cast SWC out of a 4 inch Model 28).

Now the sucker is really mad, I decide to get a rifle, neighbor (who is now laughing his butt off) says no, but to draw a line from the base of the horn to the the eye, then the base of the other horn to the other eye, hit it where the lines cross.

That worked, went down like it was pole axed. Took the tractor and held it up by the loader to gut, then put in the truck to haul to the processing plant.

Before I loaded it, I got a picture of the buffalo and my Remington so I could tell wild stories to the grandkids.

If you decide to hunt buffalo, use a rifle, '06 and bigger will work, 44-90, 45-70 would be fine but use a rifle.

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Old February 23, 2012, 10:43 PM   #10
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Stuff like that use to happen to us at work all the time. When I was workin on the floor and the slaughter plant up in Iowa we would have to kill pigs that were hurt or just to mean and were hurting other hogs. We had this little thing that looked like a maglight flashlight but you put a .25 caliber blank in it and put it on the hogs forehead with an imaginary X between the ear and the eyes. A little pole came out about the size of a medium sized fore finger. If we missed once and someone seen us we were fired, USDA was always watching. Them things were already P.O'd so there was no way we could do it the first time. One of the USDA vets that we were all budies with came over when one was giving us hell and he was laughing his butt off. I think we had to shoot him like 5 times.
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Old February 24, 2012, 08:59 AM   #11
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Oddly, what the old timers did is a poor guide to what you should use.
I do a lot of reading about the 'old days' from 1700 through 1900.
Fact(s) are they often just used what they had and followed the animal until it dropped. And/or they did not shoot for a quick kill like we do today. Many shots, especially by the professional market hunters, were designed to let the animal drop quietly without disturbing others around it.
That said, most deer calibers will work fine. To be 'authentic' those calibers mentioneed (45-70, etc.) will work great.
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Old February 24, 2012, 09:28 AM   #12
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I went along on a bison hunt a few months back in Wyo.I was observing.Three hunters,three rifles.One was a 45-70 Sharps clone,one was a 416 RUM,and one was a 16 in bbl 7.62 Nato 308 .

The 45-70 was a good lung hit,but a touch aft,maybe.It wasn't falling immediately down,so a second round was fired.That did it.

The second one went right down from the 416 RUM(more on this later.)

The third bull,our shooter was not long back from the wars,and it seemed a double tap had become his style.Bap-bap,bull down,dead.Well hit.

Now,another bull goes and pushes around on the bull hit with the 416.This bull was well hit and dead,it just did not know it yet.It rose to its feet and staggered around a bit.Another 416 was sent .I saw the shock of the hit,a snort,and it was finished.

A buff just takes a little time to pass.Each was well hit with a fatal shot,each got a second to make it quicker.

I had a subscription to an excellent magazine,"Black Powder Cartridge News"
Each issue would have a historical buffalo hunting article.I recall one about a group of buffalo hunters getting caught by a blizzard in Kansas.Think about that one a while!No trees,no Motel 6,no Coleman Stove,no Wal Mart.Some died.They had to make sort of a soddy..I recomend the magazine.

Also Mike Venturino's book"Shooting Buffalo Rifles"

Last edited by HiBC; February 24, 2012 at 09:34 AM.
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Old February 24, 2012, 10:55 AM   #13
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Ah the memories. I used to shoot an 1874 Sharps 45-100-550 paper patch gun for some time because I like to experiment. The best book ever written on the subject was "The Great Buffalo Hunt" by Wayne Gard, Kansas Univ press 1950. It has been out of print for some time but usually available in paperback. The book is fascinating, reviews the major personalities, Govt. policy, guns, calibers, the wolf explosion, gory plains indian stories, Even the beginning of the chemical industry from the bone collection.
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Old February 24, 2012, 11:06 AM   #14
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You might try to find 'The Buffalo Hunters' written by Marie Sandoz. She knew a lot of the buffalo guys in their old age. Indians as well. Her book - which may be out of print - is probably the best I have read on the slaughter of the buffalo. Well worth searching for.
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Old February 24, 2012, 03:41 PM   #15
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Wow! More responses and info here than I expected. Thanks. Will check out some of this.
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Old February 25, 2012, 11:46 AM   #16
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Just returned from a South Dakota buffalo hunt. Prior to going I contacted the guide and asked about bullets for both .300 Win Mag and the 45/70 to use on the hunt. I had TXS bullets for the .300 Win Mag and both the normal 405 grain hollow points that are available everywhere and 325 grain Hornady Leverevolution with the balsitic tip. The guide didn't really like any of the bullets. He said the TXS didn't expand as advertised and the 45/70bullets expanded on contact with the tough skin and didn't penetrate. I ended up buying some Garrett Hamerhead Hard Cast bullets that really did the job but are a little pricy. Hit the buffalo on the run and saw an obvious reaction to the hit but did not drop it. Found it standing in the bushes and finished it with one more shot. Great hunt, lot of fun, and I took my 9 year old grandson along for his first experience on a guided hunt. Have videos and pictures for the memories.
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Old February 26, 2012, 02:11 AM   #17
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I read this about a year ago:

American Buffalo: In Search of a Lost Icon

It tells the true story of a present day guy who goes to Alaska for a solo Buffalo hunt. But it covers a whole lot more, with plenty of info on the past history of the Buffalo and the hunting of Buffalo.
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