Wednesday, June 16, 2010

An American Deer Hunter In Africa, Part IV

Finally, the hunting stories themselves...

Part IV: The Game

I hunted with my T/C Contender single-shot pistol first. It has a Pachmayr rubber grip but is otherwise as it left the factory. Before lunch on the first day I bagged a nice Impala ram with a single shot at 80 yards. The ram took the bullet through the shoulders and both lungs, ran 40 yards, then piled up.

On the second day I bagged a mature Blesbok ram with a single shot through both lungs and one shoulder at 40 yards. He staggered 20 yards and collapsed.

I shot a very nice Zebra with my Contender on day three. It was quite a stalk, perhaps the best of the entire trip. That story has been accepted for publication in one of the next issues of "One Good Shot," the journal of the Thompson/Center Association.

On the fourth day I took a scar-faced, broken-tusked Warthog boar with a single shot through both lungs at 50 yards. He ran 300 yards before giving up, by far the furthest I've ever had any animal run on me. But for the uncanny abilities of the hunting and tracking staff I'm certain I’d have never seen it again. Next time I’ll be careful to put the slug through the shoulders as well as the lungs. As you might expect, no bullets were recovered, but the wide flat nose slugs pulped an inch and a half wide wound channel and punched through any bones that got in the way, just as they are designed to do.

For rifle work I brought my Remington 700 ADL in .30-’06. The stock is by H-S Precision, enhanced with a rounded butt pad and a third swivel for Eric Ching’s clever three point sling. For optics I zeroed two Leupold M8 four-power telescopes, each in Leupold Quick Release rings lapped and fitted to Leupold Quick Release two-piece bases. I've used the QR’s for a couple years now and find them sturdy and reliable. The zero seems well preserved when the scope is removed and reinstalled, at least when only shooting out to 200 yards, which is as far as I'm allowed to shoot in the San Jose, California area.

On the morning of the fourth day I switched to my rifle and took a nice Blue Wildebeest with a 60-yard shot. The bullet struck the right shoulder but did not hit any bones, penetrated the ribs, pulped the lungs, exited the ribs, and came to rest underneath the skin just behind the left shoulder. The bull staggered about 40 yards, shaking his head as he went. He then snorted, collapsed, snorted, and expired. The recovered bullet weighed 125 grains. Nice performance after penetrating two feet of Wildebeest bull.

On day six I took a Warthog boar with a 70-yard shot as it was trotting away at a quartering angle, right to left. He jinked to the right, turning straight away, just as my shot broke and the bullet landed just to the right of his tail, shattering the spine, pelvis, and bones of the right rear leg. The boar was down but not out. His rear legs of no use to him, so he continued his escape on his front legs. We closed the distance in the bakjie, dismounted, and I finished him with a snap shot at 20 paces which punched a great hole in the ribs, quartered through the lungs, and stopped in the right shoulder. During the skinning we recovered what was left of the first bullet. We determined that it had tumbled, peeled its jacket nearly to the base, shed its core, and gone on to completely wrecked the right rear quarter. The recovered bullet jacket weighed 29 grains and shows signs of having traveled in several different directions as it came apart and crashed to a stop after penetrating 12 inches of Warthog. I had expected the first 220 grain slug to stop somewhere closer to the boiler room, if it had to stop at all, but this is an imperfect business and Warthogs are tough little pigs. I regret now that I did not recover the second bullet, but at the time getting back into the field for more hunting was the priority.

Mid way through the hunt Schalk received word that one of his concessions was going to change title in two days. This particular, concession had a nice Leopard bait site on it that had seen some activity recently. He offered me the chance to sit for the Leopard, if I wanted to. I jumped at the chance and I rezeroed with Federal Premium Nosler 180 Partition spitzer ammunition, which has always worked well for me. Despite our efforts at bait site preparation the Leopard didn’t come back.

On day ten I used a single Nosler slug to collect a wary, old bull Gemsbok -- a trophy I've dreamed of bagging ever since my first business trip to Africa in 1994 - with a 70 yard head shot. We found a year's old handwoven wire snare embedded in his right front hoof; seems he was trapped and got away in his youth. The guides cut it out for me. It is quite the interesting conversation piece.

Despite the close ranges I encountered I did not want to muck anything up so my initial shots were taken either from shooting sticks or from an improvised rest. I might gotten away with a couple of my shots shooting from standing, without the sticks or a rest, but I try to take a steadier position if one is available. Some folks don't care for them, others swear by them. They have their place. Of course, if you don't like the idea of sticks you don’t have to use them.

So, are African animals tougher than their American counterparts? Based on our sampling of 24 game animals in 10 days, from Impala to Eland, I’d have to say they certainly seem tougher than the Minnesota and North Dakota Whitetail Deer I'm accustomed to. In the final analysis though, no animal got away that took a solid hit in the right place from a bullet that held together for deep penetration. On the other hand, several animals that were not well hit on the first shot seemed to take a lot of extra killing.

We elected to do our taxidermy in South Africa. It's supposed to cost less to have it done there and ship it home. They were due in late January, but we haven't received them yet. Until they arrive we won't know the cost for shipping and customs duties. My taxidermy bill last June was a little over $800 for a Zebra rug, shoulder-mounted Warthog, skull mounts for Impala, Blesbok, Warthog, Wildebeest, and Gemsbok, and one and one half warthog hides tanned into leather, and Impala, Blesbok, Wildebeest, and Gemsbok hides finished as flat skins. I'm hoping the shipping and customs costs don't rob me of this apparent bargain.

As "therapy" during my reentry to civilization I sent letters and photos to some of companies whose equipment I used. Joe Gauntt, president of Cast Performance Bullet Co., the company that made my .44 caliber LBT's commented "it is not often that hunters will remember that we like to see the product of our efforts." Send them a letter and a few pictures; you may be surprised with their response. My photos have been included in the 1998 Thompson/Center and Hornady catalogues. Ross Seyfried, the gunwriter whose views on hunting big game with heavy handguns shaped my approach, wrote about my letter to him in his monthly column in Guns and Ammo magazine.  I also wrote two articles; the one you are about to finish reading was rejected after four months of sitting in some editor's "unsolicited" in-box; the other, as I mentioned earlier, will be printed in a forthcoming issue of "One Good Shot," the journal of the Thompson/Center Association.

A final piece of advice. Keep a journal. It’s a handy place to save your exotic permits and receipts. It will remember things you'll forget. It will keep your memories fresh. It will be a comfort to you on the long flight home and after you've been back to work for a month or two. If you're very lucky, it might just become that yellowed, dog-eared, "Grandpa’s Africa Book," with which you can tell tales of adventure in an Africa long gone.

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