Handguns In Africa

Always An Adventure
5

African Hunting

Barbary sheep are always a challenge, especially with a handgun. Remington’s 50-year-old XP-100 did the job on this nice ram.

Africa Encore Handgun

This hippo was taken with an Encore in 375 JDJ using Cor-Bon ammunition. The Zambezi River provided an unforgettable experience.

The early morning mist evaporated quickly as the sun beat down on the Zambezi River. As we launched the boat, two women were washing their clothes in the river. Gazing across the water I noticed a croc sunning himself on the bank. I wanted to tell the women it wasn’t a good idea to be splashing around the water. They wouldn’t understand, and who am I to tell them anything? Never mind the fact the big lizards in this stretch of river claims a life every four days! Indeed a sobering statistic.

We motored downstream about 10 minutes and found the small pod of hippos spotted the previous afternoon. There was one nice bull in the group. Unfortunately the hippos were right smack dab in the middle of the river, resting on a shallow bar. It was too far to shoot from either bank. We let the boat drift onto a patch of weeds. The rangefinder confirmed 170 yards separated us. Too far for me to try a brain shot. Kobus said the only other option is to push the boat down another 20 yards on the only remaining weed bed. This was not going to gain us nearly as much ground as I was hoping. As Kobus got in the shallow water and pushed the boat I couldn’t help to wonder about the crocs. The hippos didn’t like our presence and eased into deeper water as our boat rested against the last patch of weeds. I placed a Pelican box containing a satellite phone on top of the weeds, then a sand bag on top of the box. As I stayed in the boat, resting the gun on the bag, it was probably the most unorthodox shooting position I have ever experienced.

Thirty minutes later the hippos began to occupy the shallow resting spot. As the bull was slightly quartering toward us, Kobus told me to put the bullet in his eye socket. Truthfully, the distance was out of my comfort zone. Before leaving home, the gun was sighted-in dead-on at 100 yards. I never dreamed of shooting a hippo further. As I leveled the crosshairs a touch high and begin to squeeze the trigger, my heart started racing. I had to get off the trigger and try to settle myself down and regain what little composure I could muster. When I touched the trigger a few moments later, you could hear the distinct sound of bullet striking. That’s when pandemonium erupted.

South Africa

This safari originated in South Africa several days before we found ourselves on the mighty Zambezi River. I was looking for a few odd, specific animals not taken on previous trips. My wife Karen and I were hunting with Murray Crous of Settlers Safaris. Murray is a very capable, experienced professional hunter with many fine hunting concessions at his disposal.

The first few days we targeted Barbary sheep, or aoudad as we sometimes call them. Wherever these sheep are hunted, they always present a challenge. We climbed several rock-covered mountains the first day looking for a good ram. There were several sheep encountered but nothing as big as we were hoping to find. They never stayed around for long anyway. Most of the day was spent glassing and covering a lot of mountainous terrain but the sheep prevailed. A big ram is never an easy task regardless of where they are living — typical of sheep hunting.

Changing concessions the following day, we looked for rams most of the morning and only spotted a few. I begin to question our decision to change areas. Late in the afternoon as we were sneaking along the top of a mountain, searching in every little nook and cranny, we bumped into a nice herd of 20 or so animals. There were three nice rams in the group. Murray set-up my shooting sticks (Bog-Pod) as I rested the XP in the cradle of the tripod while the sheep were feeding directly below us. The wind was gusting on top of the mountain and holding the crosshairs steady was difficult. Luckily, the sheep never knew we were on the same planet. The shot was fairly close, perhaps 70 yards or so. When the crosshairs of the Leupold came wandering across the biggest ram’s shoulder, I tugged the trigger. Sheep went in all directions. Our ram ran over the crest of the ridge and disappeared. When we found him I was pleasantly surprised with the length of his horns. He was an old male with horns reaching almost 30". Pending a 60-day drying period, he is the biggest ram taken with a handgun in South Africa.

Africa hippo

Trying to get a hippo in position for a decent photo is not as easy as you may think.

TC Encore Handgun

T/C’s Encore with a custom 375 JDJ barrel was fond of Cor-Bon’s 270-grain DPX offering. This is one of Mark’s favorite handguns for big game.

Handgun hunting

Handgun hunters are always looking for means to steady their crosshairs, so shooting off a backpack works.

The Guns

Speaking of handguns, I took two different guns on this trip. Since the Remington XP-100 is enjoying its 50th anniversary, it only seemed fitting to bring one of my favorite XPs chambered in .308 Winchester. I was shooting DoubleTap’s 165-grain Nosler AB in this pistol. This was a custom XP wearing a McMillan stock and Leupold 2.5-8X scope. It’s surprising the accuracy these handguns are capable of producing. T/C’s Encore in 375 JDJ was the other handgun I was packing for larger game. It too was mounted with a Leupold scope. I was shooting Cor-Bon’s 270-grain DPX load which was capable of keeping three shots around 1" at 100 yards. Both of these serious hunting handguns are very capable of taking most any game encountered, providing I do my part.

One of the longest shots taken on this trip was on a beautiful copper springbuck. This is basically a color variation of the common springbuck. They are very skittish and seldom were we able to get closer than 300 yards. These beautiful antelope prefer the wide-open plains, much like our pronghorn here in the western US. With few places to conceal our presence, we finally decided to set up in the shade of a large camel-thorn tree and wait. Several springbuck had been spotted roaming around the area so patience was required as we sat there early one morning. As the morning progressed, a herd of about 20 came strolling near our ambush location. One particular ram had good mass. When the animals got within 250 yards I knew we better make things happen before they spotted us. The .308 Winchester barked and our springbuck was headed to the skinning shed. It was fun and reminded me of enjoyable antelope hunts in Wyoming.

The last few days we searched for an old (past his prime), roan bull. These are big animals, the second largest antelope behind the giant Lord Derby eland. Murray suggested I use the 375 JDJ because of their size. We spotted several roan including a few nice bulls, but nothing requiring a second look. As we covered a lot of ground in the wide open, red dust, camel-thorn savannah, I was just hoping we could get within reasonable shooting distance. Late one afternoon we found an old solitary bull and it was just the kind of roan we were hoping to find. With little to hide behind, our stalk took us up to 170 yards. These big bulls are impressive. I steadied the crosshairs just behind his shoulder and the 270-grain DPX did the rest. A complete pass-through with no bullet to recover left us pleased with the results of the Cor-Bon ammunition. The big roan was one of the animals on my bucket list and I was happy to see him on the ground.

Handgun Hunting

Getting a steady rest from Bog-Pod’s tripod system was beneficial during Mark’s safari in two countries.

Handgun Hunting Winchester

This copper springbuck was taken at long range with an XP-100 in .308 Winchester. DoubleTap’s 165-grain Nosler AB load performed well during this hunt involving two countries.

Africa Plane

Charter aircraft are often employed to reach remote camps such as this one in Mozambique. This is quite a different terminal in the bush.

washing clothes

These women frequently wash their clothes in the water of the Zambezi River. They don’t seem to mind the river full of crocs and hippos.

The Adventure Continues

As we departed to Mozambique, we coincidentally bumped into my friend Craig Boddington. He and Kelly McMillan (of McMillan stocks) were hosting a group hunt in Mozambique. We had to laugh when we figured out we were all heading to the same camp; it was going to be a good time for sure. When we arrived in Beira after clearing the customs fire drill, a charter plane was taken to a remote concession operated by Mark Haldane’s Zambeze Delta Safaris. Craig and his group were situated in camp on one side of the dirt runway while Karen and I enjoyed an adjacent camp. This is truly wild Africa. The aggressive anti-poaching campaign has paid huge dividends as this area, Coutada 11, is thriving with game.

There were only a few animals I had on my wish list, which included suni, red duiker, Lichtenstein’s hartebeest and hippo. Craig had warned me earlier the area was crawling with red duiker and suni. Well, they were like cockroaches — you had to be careful not to step on them. I can’t imagine any place having a higher density of these little guys. On our first morning of hunting, we stayed in the sand forest areas and observed both species on numerous occasions. Kobus, our PH, tried his best to keep me off the trigger. Later in the morning I couldn’t take it any longer and shot a nice suni with the 375 JDJ. Yes, I know that’s a mighty big gun for such a diminutive creature but the big slug goes in and makes an exit without damaging much hide. Since cape buffalo were prevalent, the 375 JDJ was comforting to have in hand. You never know what you might bump into in the forest. The suni, like all other game in this concession, were on a quota system. This ensures that game populations maintain sustainable numbers for future generations.

Africa handgun hunting

A roan is Africa’s second largest antelope, following the Lord Derby Eland. This old bull was taken from 170 yards with a 375 JDJ.

handgun hunting

Red duiker was abundant in the concession of Coutada 11 of Mozambique.

hunting

This common reedbuck was taken as part of a community quota where all the meat is given to local families.

Lots Of Stalks

The odd-looking Lichtenstein hartebeest lives in open flood plain, flat savannah with the landscape dotted with palm trees — an area between the swamps and the forest. Shots beyond 200 yards are common and I knew the XP chambered in .308 Winchester would have a chance to stretch its legs a bit. The hartebeest were spooky. Several attempts to close the distance for a decent shot proved unsuccessful. One particular stalk found us closing in on a nice bull as he was chasing a female. I laid on the ground resting the gun on a backpack while watching a humorous scene of a bull running behind an unwilling female. He never stood still for a shot but I was covered with black from all the burnt grass. A couple of days later our luck changed. We believe the bull was the same one chasing his wanna-be girlfriend previously. From a little over 200 yards the bull stopped momentarily. The crosshairs of the scope came to rest slightly behind his shoulder as I pressed the trigger. Nosler’s 165-grain Accubond sealed the deal. Boy, do these creatures look interesting!

The following day Kobus finally gave me the green light on a red duiker. I actually told our PH that I wasn’t looking for a world-record specimen. After seeing dozens of red duiker, an old male past his prime was spotted feeding at the edge of the forest. The shot was somewhere around 70 yards. Even a monster red duiker doesn’t offer a very big target but the McMillan stocked XP delivered. Leupold’s 2.5-8X scope provides the option of setting the magnification where it best serves the situation. The lower power worked fine for close-range encounters in the forest and the higher end provided enough magnification for longer shots in the savannah.

The anticipation was building as we loaded the 16' aluminum boat and headed to the Zambezi River for hippo. Actually, I was growing a bit nervous thinking about the upcoming event. When we reached the river, several women were washing their dishes and clothes. A small crowd gathered as we launched the boat and headed upstream. They were all hopeful we would succeed; many families in the area would appreciate the meat. We spent a long day searching for hippo. Several crocs were spotted sunning along the banks. Whenever we came across some local fisherman Kobus and Shorty, our tracker, would ask if they knew where hippo might be hanging out. Every lead we received turned out uneventful. We motored upstream several miles and located a few hippos but never observed any males. By the end of the long, hot day we headed back to the loading area. Kobus wanted to go down the river, below our launching point, for a while just to look around. Good thing we did, as a small pod of hippos were spotted in the middle of the river. One nice bull accompanied the females. They were resting on a shallow bar with their bodies partially exposed. It was too late in the day for any action but at least we had a starting point for the next day.

Africa Hunting

The odd-looking Lichtenstein hartebeest are found in the floodplain where shots are commonly long-range affairs. This nice bull was taken with a .308 Winchester.

handgun hunting

This suni was taken with a 375 JDJ at close range. These animals live in the thick forest habitat where shots seldom reach 50 yards.

horns

Hippo tusks — The African safari remains one of the greatest adventures a hunter can experience.

River Rodeo

When the 375 JDJ disrupted the solitude on that following morning, it was amazing to see how fast an animal as large as a hippo can move. The females dove to the deeper pool as the big bull burst out of the water with a massive amount of blood gushing from his nostrils. Immediately we knew the shot had missed the brain. The bull couldn’t stay under water very long and would erupt out of the water with blood pouring out. This hippo was heading for land. We were trying to close the distance with Kobus pushing the boat toward the beast. I tried to get another bullet in him but that was nearly impossible. Every 15 or 20 seconds the bull would bust out of the water. This went on for maybe three or four minutes. Then, his last effort to come out of the water still showed blood spewing from his nostrils as he acted like he was finished. The moment he disappeared is the moment I became deeply concerned. An enraged hippo is the last thing I would want to climb in the boat with us! As the boat drifted quietly and slowly downstream, Kobus and I both held our guns at ready, watching and waiting. I spotted something creating a riffle in the current and told Kobus to get closer for a better look. Sure enough it was our bull. We breathed a sigh of relief. Now getting him to the bank became quite the chore. I was anxious to determine where the bullet entered and hopefully see what had caused this much damage.

Luckily we had several local fishermen give us a hand. After a few pictures we began looking for a wound channel. The bullet had struck four inches low and missed the brain, passing through in to the body. Fortunately, it penetrated a great deal with Kobus and Shorty thinking it actually went in the lungs. The bullet was never recovered before the mob began the butchering process. I was very fortunate this hunt ended successful. The locals were very appreciative of the much-needed protein. We were all extremely thankful and jubilant. I told my wife if this euphoria last longer than 4 hours, don’t call a doctor. It’s just part of handguns and Africa!