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Do I need a .375 Magnum for Planins Game?
admin | March 4, 2010 | 10:45 pm | Hunting
Do I need a .375 Magnum rifle for plains game?
Historically, Professional Hunters have carried the .375 and larger caliber rifles as stopping rifles. When your life is on the line there is no such thing as too
much gun. However, for plains game like impala, kudu, and wildebeest is the heavy fire-power of an elephant gun needed or desired. No one article will ever
settle this question, yet my experiences in August should prove informative.
The 30-06 4X4 vs. Africa
The 30-06 is a great, all-around deer caliber, but can it handle Africa’s toughest antelope species? In the footprints of two US Presidents?
Every bend in an African road is a gateway to adventure. We had just set out along a dusty two-track when a black object in a small clearing of the dense
bush caught our eyes. “Wildebeest, whispered PH Harold Prinsloo as we froze in our tracks. Just 80 yards away was one of Africa’s most challenging
critters to take down. Every lion, leopard, jackal, hyena, and vulture salivates at the thought of this tasty morsel; no wonder it’s so tough.
Quietly chambering a round, I took a solid rest and centered the Zeiss red dot right on its heart, a lesson learned by careful study of a shot placement
guide. In an instant, the rifle cracked and the wildebeest dropped like a stone. Wow! Prinsloo, exclaimed, “I’ve seen a lot of wildebeest taken on safari but
never one go down like that. Wound one and it can go for days, usually at least 100 yards with a heart shot,” he said excitedly. As we carefully approached
the trophy, I half expected to find a high shot, catching the spine, yet closer inspection showed the hit was low in the shoulder. Hornady’s new GMX
ammunition had performed perfectly.
This was the second sunrise of a week-long safari on one of the most unique properties in Africa. I had shunned a magnum caliber for the good ol’ 30-06
topped with a great scope and eagerly anticipated the encounters of the days ahead.
Hunting with the President
This safari began on the Fahad Game Reserve, 50,000 acres of game-rich bush along the Limpopo River which separates Botswana from South Africa. The
ranch is owned by the Prince of State of Saudi Arabia and here-to-for only hunted by invited guests such as Presidents George Herbert and Walker Bush.
With the world economy in a tail spin, the Prince chose to supplement ranch expenses by offering a limited number of hunts and I was fortunate enough to
The ranch has four lodges that accommodate from eight to eighty guests, and, as you might imagine, the largest lodge is used by the Prince to entertain
heads of state and other dignitaries, from around the world. Our party consisted of eight members, Rick and Brandon (a father and son), Randy and John,
two of the nine miners who survived 77 hours underground in July of 2002, and three women, my wife Vel, her friend Rebecca, a model, and her friend Sheli
who hosts a fishing TV show. A diverse group that made for great fun.
Excellent amenities, service and food prevailed, yet the quality and quantity of game quickly became the prime topic of every campfire. I passed up a trophy
warthog, gemsbok and eland bull the first day, just to see what was out there, and my success on the wildebeest set the tone for a terrific week.
Kudu or Bust
By late August, rain hasn’t fallen for five months and the ground is parched and dusty dry. In this arid climate most animals drink daily and focus on the
Limpopo River or dozens of waterholes scattered throughout the property. Posting near a water route is a good strategy and late morning of the third day, we
built a small blind that overlooked several heavily used trails. Soon, two kudu bulls and a wildebeest passed by at 80 yards. “You want the one in the rear,”
whispered Prinsloo excitedly.
The trio disappeared behind a patch of thorn as I swallowed hard, hugged the stock and waited for my chance. Just as everything seemed perfect, Prinsloo
whispered, “kudu cows to our right.” Glancing carefully, I saw three females with their keen noses and giant radar ears within steps of our scent stream.
They would alarm-bark at the first hint of our presence and the promising prospect seemed doomed to failure. Luckily, the bulls switched position such that
the biggest trophy emerged first.
The 4×4 has a wonderful trigger and the rifle reported without thought as the animal quartered toward me. Upon impact, the big bull burst into flight and
offered a broadside shot at full speed just as it disappeared into the bush.
We radioed for a native tracker and gave the animal some time. Ironically, with two shoulder pass-through hits, the 500-pound creature went 200 yards
before cashing in. My intention was never to shoot at a running animal, but it was a testament to the performance and smooth bolt operation of the 4×4 that
seemed to re-chamber on automatic pilot. The bull measured 56 inches, Gold Medal status with the Safari Club International and was my personal best.
Chevy Super Sport
Chevrolet makes the Impala, Africa breeds im-paul’- a. First timers get a lot of ribbing about pronouncing the animal like the car, but whatever you call it, this
whitetail deer-size antelope in one of Africa’s great trophies. Our tracker spotted a good ram standing along the edge of a two track, half a mile away.
Ducking inside the edge of the bush, we sneaked within 230 yards. Ordinarily shooting sticks are the order, yet I shot from the sitting position, (my favorite)
and made a solid shoulder hit.
With three animals in the bag, I had a fourth to go and debated whether to try for a specific animal or just see what opportunities arose. With three days to go,
I’d see many more animals and have multiple shooting options.
Traditional safari lure praises rifles in .375 magnum caliber, yet my experience demonstrated that the good ol’ 30-06 was up to the African challenge. I took
four animals with five shots, the bonus round at the kudu which ran within sight. African animals are resilient and cling to life with a heritage of a prey species
honed and magnified over millions of years. That’s a lot of savvy to overcome, yet the ’06 proved up to the challenge.
Author’s Note: For information on the Fahad Game Reserve call the USA office at (610) 863-8182 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting (610) 863-
8182 end_of_the_skype_highlighting or check www.huntinglegends.com
Sidebar: Great Products Tested Tough
1. Mossberg 4×4 in 30-06 caliber: From its target crowned muzzle, to the matt finish, to the light box magazine, to the recoil-eating recoil pad, the 4×4
handled every challenge that poked its horns above the horizon.
2. Zeiss Victory Varipoint 1.5-6×42 combined the precision of a standard reticle with a tiny red dot that made shot placement nearly instinctive. The optic
presented incredible light transmission, with nearly see-in-the-dark capabilities.
3. Hornady GMX Bullets and Ammo: The one 165-grain bullet retrieved mushroomed perfectly and maintained 95% of its original weight. These non-lead
bullets may be the projectile of the future and showed great penetration and impact.
4. Blackhawk Tactical Gear- Navy Seals swim with this boot, yet it handled the dust and grime of the dry season with aplomb. Comfortable as sneakers,
lightweight, and tough as nails, they were ideal for stalking, even on frosty mornings. Warrior Wear pants and shirts made excellent safari clothing.
5. Under Armour- Both men and women used Under Armour products in a variety of layers from base to vests to windproof fleece. The insulation and
compactness was amazing. We could pack for an entire safari in our carry-on.