Gary's Gun Notes #34

Three weeks after our 2005 Africa hunt came to an end and things have finally settled down enough to get to the April edition of Gun Notes. 

Our 2005 Africa hunt was by far one of the best. Due to a group of FNGs having to drop out during the 2 months prior to the hunt this left us with only 4 of us on the hunt, yet between the 4 we took almost as many head of game as a prior group of 10. 

This years hunt was back in the Rooiport area of northwestern South Africa, right on the edge of the Kalahari Desert. The area is not what most people would think of when you mention on the edge of the desert. It was a lot like southern Arizona with a lot of brush and evergreens and high elephant grass, much like our sage brush. The area is mostly wide open with long shots being the norm rather than the exception. I had suggested to my guys to bring a good large caliber rifle for those long shots and I think they were glad they did. 

As far as the weapons used on this hunt they were a mixed variety but yet still much the same. Davey Chavarria used a Browning A-Bolt in 375 H&H and a TC Contender in 375 JDJ. He also brought along a custom revolver in 510 GNR.

Joe Butler used several Thompson Center Contenders and Encores, including a 475 GNR Encore pistol, a 41 GNR Contender pistol and a TC carbine in 378 GNR.

Shane Lambert used a 375 H&H CZ rifle, a custom 510 Hunter is 510 GNR, and a 378 GNR encore pistol.

My guns of choice were my old trusty 378 GNR encore pistol and my 510 GNR revolver. 

The animals taken were a wide variety of plains game also and not suprisingly over 80% of the animals taken will end up in the record book, including at least 5 new #1s, a couple of #2s and several in the top 10 in the world. The rest scattered about in the top 50. 

Joe Butler took the largest amount of game with 10 animals. They included Blue Wildebeest, Springbok, Red hartebeest, and Eland with his 475 GNR encore, Cape Kudu, Springbok, a pair of Gemsbok, Blesbok, and Zebra with his 378 GNR TC carbine. 

Shane was close behind Joe in the amount of game with a Zebra, Cape Kudu and Steenbok taken with his CZ 375 H&H, a Blesbok and Gemsbok with his 378 GNR encore, and taking a Blue Wildebeest with a long almost 100 yard open sight shot with his 510 Hunter in 510 GNR. That particular revolver will be showcased in an article coming out soon by one of the more popular gun writers, who had it before Shane bought it. 

Davey Chavarria was next with 5 animals including a large Cape Kudu with his 375 H&H Browning, a Blesbok, Springbok, Gemsbok, and Eland with his 375 JDJ Contender.

My tally was also 5 animals, including Blesbok, Blue Wildebeest, Black Wildebeest, Steenbok, and Cape Kudu. All were taken with my 378 GNR encore. I took my 510 GNR but the majority of the shots were well over 100 yards with 3 of them being over 200 yards, so the 378 GNR came in handy.

As always my hunt starts out with a long session with John Abraham, the head honcho of Madubula Safaris and the new copy of the SCI record book. John got me on this record book kick 13 years ago back in '92. The first animal I ever shot in Africa went #1 and stayed there up until this last record book came out. The next couple of hunts I didn't worry about the record book but as I put more hunts under my belt, John would point out an animal and slyly mention "that would be top 2 or 3 in the book". After a couple of these little hints I got hooked and it all started there. Now I am trying each year to better myself. John and I went over my list of animals in the record book and as I had lost 4 of my #1 animals to a lady handgun hunter, Pam Atwood, it was time to better myself. 

The first day we shot only one animal. We mostly would drive around in the cruiser and stop and climb up on top of the cab and glass herds of animals hundreds of yards away. One herd of Blue Wildebeest we glassed had a small group of bulls in it that stayed out at the edge of the herd. As we got closer they eased into the heavy brush. John looked at me and said "let's take a walk". When he says that I know something is up. We walked away from the truck and into the heavy brush heading at an angle to where the animals went close to a half mile away. Over an hour later John stopped behind a head high bush and scanned what was beyond with his binocs. he must have looked at them for 10 minutes before motioning me to his side. He whispered "he is the last animal on the left, there is no brush between us and him, just step out and shoot him". When John says "shoot him" I don't ask questions. He knows what I am looking for and I know better than to try and second guess him. I took a second to check my encore, make sure there was no brush or junk on the scope lens and stepped out from behind the brush. The gun was already at about mid chest level and it only took another second or two to bring it up and put the crosshairs of the left hand bulls chest. At the blast the bull dropped like a rock and the others got the hell out of Dodge. Larry Kovach's new Magnum load including the new Nosler Accubond bullet hit like pure lightning, dropping the Blue Wildebeest in his tracks. The range was a medium one, measuring out to 85 of my strides, probably 80 yards. I had lost my #1 Blue Wildebeest to another hunter that hunted with John a year earlier but had recouped that position with this new much larger animal.

Having scouted for the first day, day 2 was the day to get serious. The scenario was pretty much the same, scout and stalk. By the end of the day we had taken a Blesbok with almost 19 inch horns. The current #1 was a bit over 17, so we had this one sewed up. One shot, 165 steps, 378 GNR. 

The next morning while driving around the area in the cruiser (we do this because the area is well over 120,000 acres, and the big animals are not going to be within walking distance of the camp), we were driving around a large body of water almost completely covered with white Flamingos. While driving around this lake, one of the trackers yanked at Johns shirtsleeve pointing to our right in the knee high grass. John stopped the cruiser and got up on top of the cab scanning the grass with his binocs. The tracker kept pointing to a spot in the grass. Finally John nodded his head and motioned for me to get out of the truck with him. As we did he motioned for the driver to drive away. We squatted down in the grass while the truck drove away. he whispered to me to wait and be very quite that it would take about 15 minutes. Finally, about 15 minutes later almost to the second he pointed to a set of horns easing up over the grass. As the animal stood up he was still mostly covered by the tall grass. He was facing us at about 50 yards, and was a huge Steenbok. And by huge I don't mean body size. he still weighed maybe 20 pounds but his horns were monstrous. As before John said for me to lean out and take a shot, but not to step totally out where the Steenbok could see me. As I eased out to my right to the edge of the bush, the animal saw me and he and I both froze. I already had the gun up so all I had to do was bring my eye down level with the scope. As the blast broke the stillness and before the recoil moved the scope I saw the little animal to a backwards flip. John was literally beside himself with excitement. He said this was the largest Steenbok he had ever seen. I already had the #1 animal but this one was a good 2 inches longer that my other one, and in a book where they score by 1/16 of an inch this was great. That was the only animal we took that day but that one was more than I could have asked for. 

That night over dinner one of the other PH's working for John told him of a huge Cape Kudu he had seen very briefly in a very dense area of brush near a river that runs thru the concession. Day 4 was our day to look for him. And we did but no luck at all. We must have walked 10 miles and driven 20 at 5 miles an hour. One of the trackers said he saw the big Kudu but we didn't. so we made note of the area and at a bit after daylight the next morning we were back in the area.

Almost immediately John spotted him going up a long hill in very heavy brush. Off the cruiser we went and after him. After an hour of quite stalking John spotted him again but this time he thought the Kudu spotted us too. So the only way to go was crawl. The ground was covered with marble sized sharp little rocks and thorns but he said this Kudu was going to be worth it. he eased up over the brush again and scanned the area with a range finder. 425 yards he said. lets crawl a bit. So we did. I could hear him whispering the yardage to himself as we crawled. Finally he said this should put us about 250 yards from him. Catch your breath while I check. he eased his head over the brush and then ducked back down again. he said he is right over there, pointing off my left shoulder, and said he is about 250 or so away looking right at us. he said if I put up the shooting sticks he is going to see them. Can you take the shot offhand at that range. After that long knee blooding crawl, there was not a chance in hell I wasn't going to try. After a moment I got my act together, cocked my encore (which I never do ahead of time, but this time was an exception to that rule) and raised up over the brush pointing the gun where John had said the Kudu was, and was looking right into the afternoon sun. It took me another second or two to find the Kudu in the shadow of a large brush, way out there. letting my breath out I put the crosshairs somewhere near his shoulder and pulled the trigger. At the shot we both heard the bullet hit, but it was a dull thump rather than a good crack of a shoulder shot. 

The animal jumped up in the air and hauled ass. he went over that head high brush like it wasn't there. Not being sure where I had hit him and fearing a gut shot we went after him at a run, reloading the 378 GNR in mid stride. As we came to a crest where he had gone over he was lying crumpled up about 20 yards further on. he had run less than 60 yards. My shot had been off, hitting him in the liver rather than the shoulder. But Lady Luck was with me this time as a liver shot is almost as quickly fatal as a heart shot. 

Knowing the current #1 Cape Kudu was a bit over 48 inches I held my breath as John measured the horns. This monster rough scored at 55 inches. I thought John was going to kiss me, he was so excited. That made our day. The truck was miles away but we caped out the animal, two trackers took as much meat as they could carry and we made our way back to the truck. Neither of us had a camera with us so we stopped on the way back to camp at a clearing, got the head and horns out and got some pictures. 

Day six we went to another adjoining part of this huge concession which was about an hours drive from where we were camped. John had spotted a couple of large Black Wildebeest in that area. As we drove into the area I puckered up pretty tight. The area was absolutely flat and not a tree in sight. If I wounded an animal out here we would spend days tracking him and we only had one more day after today. The seemingly endless flat area was interspersed with gulches and mounds of dirt like levees running thru it. Standing on one of these levees John spotted 2 big bulls and the hunt was on. This meant another long crawl but it was on sand and no rocks to speak of so it wasn't near as bad as the Kudu crawl. After a couple of hundred yards we crawled up the side of a levee and John peeked over. Looking at me he motioned me up. he whispered "it's going to be a long shot". I thought, aw shit, not another one. But he grinned and said "yep maybe 40 yards". Sure enough as I eased up to the crest there he was maybe 40 yards away on this endless flat plains. I laid my binocs down in the sand and laid my cap on top of them to get the muzzle of the encore up off the ground. At the shot the Black Wildebeest crumpled into a heap. Larry's magnum load had done it again. 5 animals, 5 shots. Not one animal needed a second shot. 

Since becoming a record book junkie, I have shot a lot less animals but enjoyed it much more than before. In 2004 I only shot 3 animals. In 2005 only 5 but every one of them was worth the blood, (from my knees and that long crawl), a lot of sweat and no tears. 2005 was a helluva hunt and 2006 is going to be just as good. We have a couple of openings left. Join us if you can.



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