Hunting The Incorrectly Called "Plains " Game
One often reads in the USA hunting media the reference to Africa "plains game" as opposite to "dangerous game". Fact is, Cape buffalo and white rhino being grazers are plains game although both species are so widepread that they also occur in the dense savannah bushveld. The majority of the antelope species listed further down below occur in the dense savannah of the "bushveld", which also is elephant, lion, leopard and black rhino habitat. The true plains game are the inhabitants of the Karoo, Free State and Kalahari plains: springbok, blesbok, gemsbok, black wildebeest, eland, and blue wildebeest - although the latter two also occur in dense savannah habitat.
We like to think that the many species of antelope is the real hunting of Africa - what we all grew up with. The abundance of and variety of non dangerous game is what makes Africa unique. As much as The Big Five is touted as the epitome of African hunting we believe the sheer variety of our non dangerous savannah game is what "Hunting Africa" really is about.
Look at the list of what South African meat and trophy hunters have available as a matter of course:
Red and grey duiker. Springbok. Blesbok. Bontebok. Impala. Bushbuck. Grey rhebok. Reedbuck. Mountain reedbuck (or "Rooi-ribbok", related to the reedbuck). Red hartebeest. Tsessebe (the fastest ungulate in Africa). Zebra. Black wildebeest. Blue wildebeest. Nyala. Kudu. Gemsbok. Roan. Sable. Waterbuck. Eland (The heaviest antelope on earth). Warthog. Bushpig.
Twenty four different species of antelope! Where else on earth can you hunt that but in South Africa? And be sure that each one of them will present its own unique challenge to your and our skills.
The forever-issue that hunters debate on forums and around the camp fire is: "Which calibre is best for Africa?"
The immediate answer for non-dangerous game must be the 30-06. Period. Then immediately the 8x57 (the ballistic twin of the '06), the 7x57, .280 Rem, .308W, .303 Brit fit the ticket as well. BUT: a heavy, premium bullet counts higher than the cartridge that expels it. If you have a 30-06 and if you shoot it well (and who does not shoot this good performer well) that is the rifle you should bring with 180 gr bonded core bullets.
The logical thing to do is to bring the 7mm or .30 calibre magazine rifle which is not too heavy to carry and which you shoot well - meaning that one with which you can consistently hit a 4" blaze orange clay off-hand up to 50 yards (meaning not more than 2" off your aiming mark), same clay at 100 yards over a make-shift rest, and say an 8" gong over a rest at 200 yards. We have shooting sticks for visiting hunters for shots further than about 70 yards.
Many years of experience has shown that the heavier bullets in either 7mm or the .30 calibres work better in Africa, and not necessarily the speediest. If you arrive with a 30-06 / .308W and 180 gr bullets, or .280 Rem / 7x57mm Mauser / 7mm-08 with bullets in the 175-160gr range your outfitter will be impressed and no doubt you'll be able to impress us with the way you shoot them. What iscritical is that the hunter should invest in proven quality bonded core bullets. In commercially loaded ammunition none equals the Federal Fusion series.
If you like the old 6.5 mm cartridges like the 6,5x58 Portuguese / 6,5x57 Mauser / 6,5x55 Swedish Mauser - or the modern USA derivatives of these - bring best quality bonded core or monolithic bullets of 140 gr.
The hunter will have ample time to zero his riflescope after all the travel and bumping by airline ground handlers.
Do you shoot any of the 7mm and .300 "Ultra" Magnums? Our honest opinion? Their penetration ability is often compromised due to bullet failure on big game shoulders at the typically closer than 150 yard ranges your guide will get you from your game; they also seem to be difficult to shoot really accurately by many hunters. Even so, if that is your rifle of choice and you can shoot it accurately, be our guest and bring it - but only with the heaviest, premium bullets - and come impress us.
If you prefer the 7mm Rem. Magnum or .300 Winchester Magnum it is advisable to also use the heaviest, best constructed bullets available for the calibre. Rather than high velocity and "flat shooting" air ballistics think more in terms of the penetrating performance at 100 - 200 yards by a slower, heavy, strong bullet through tough skin and into thick muscle and very strong shoulder bone. The .284" 175 gr Federal Fusion and 200 gr .308" Federal Fusion have all proven themselves on africa game.
Sight your rifle to shoot 2" high at 100 yards no matter your bullet choice - and from there on your PH will in every instance advise you to simply aim dead on.
With real good reason we caution against using lightweight "ballistic tip" bullets. Your guide will get you closer than 200 yards of even your most difficult objectives and often as close as 70-100 yards in dense cover. Accurately placing a heavy bullet into the heart is what will get you your game. As a kind reference: keep in mind that simply because of their ability to penetrate so well and kill cleanly at all normal hunting distances the 30-06 and .308W (180 gr), the .303 Brit (168 -174 gr), and the 7x57 / 7x64 (160-170gr) have been in regular use in Africa since their inception - and still are the locally preferred, majority, one-shot killers every day on Africa big game.
Game in South Africa belongs to the land owner on whose property it is at any time. The cost is on the shooter's debit the moment a hit is observed by the PH, guide or tracker. Every effort will be made to find any wounded game, and no further hunting by that party proceeds until the wounded animal has been found and killed. The PH / guide will also carry a rifle and at his sole discretion he may dispatch a poorly shot, wounded animal should the hunter fail to make a follow up shot when necessary. A fatally hit animal often dashes off for 50-60 yards before dying, and a wounded animal will not show any indication of being hit with follow-up shots unless it is into the brain. After a good shot is called by the hunter we typically call a few minutes break, sit down and relax and then go to the exact position the animal had been standing, and then follow up from there.
Should you experience a need for it, locally manufactured ammunition will serve you well; it is plentiful in .375 H&H / .300 Winchester Mag. / 30-06 Sprg / .308 W / 7x64 Brenneke / 7mm Rem Mag / 7x57 Mauser / .270 W. The local PMP Group manufactures excellent ammunition with on-target performance right up there with the best in the world and arguably more accurate than most.
Hunting Dangerous Game
Cape buffalo, lion and leopard are our speciality in South Africa; elephant in Zimbabwe. And - for that especially wild, old Africa hunt we have the best you can ask for: lion, leopard, Cape buffalo and sable in the far north of Mozambique, bordering Tanzania. Hunt in the true Robert Ruark, Harry Manners, Peter Capstick and Peter Flack style. It will be THE Africa experience you will never forget.
Big trophy buffalo bulls (44 inch spread and more) are becoming very scarce. We have concessions to areas where 36-44 inch bulls are available. Prices differ between these horn sizes. To me personally a set of buffalo horns between 35-38 inches with a very hard boss is the image of those beasts we see all over every day. Old, loney bulls.
To have a unique experience combine a Cape buffalo with a real trophy sized (meaning VERY BIG), very dark brown bull giraffe. Giraffe is not officially deemed "dangerous game", and indeed they will rather canter away from humans - but tourists who approached too close by car have paid dearly for such foolishness as a single kick from those powerful hind legs will render a vehicle's cooling system in pieces right there.
What calibre for dangerous game?
We advise our clients to bring their .375 H&H rifles to Africa because it has very manageable recoil which allows for sufficient practice to ensure perfect shot placement. Honestly, with well constructed bullets (S.A. made Peregrines, GS Custom, Rhino - and USA made Barnes, Swift A-Frame of 300 gr.) the .375 H&H has the required performance to cleanly kill anything Africa has to offer, and its mild recoil allows the shooter to practice a lot and consistently put the bullet where it is supposed to go.
A heavier calibre which causes you to flinch and miss that vital spot is a real liability and not an asset; a hard kicking .458"+ will NOT do you any good if your shot placement is off the mark. Locally manufactured ammunition for the .375 H&H is plentiful and efficient. Also, to make us smile, your big bore will not have a muzzle brake so we shall not look foolish by needing to wear ear protection out in the bush. If you own a .416 Rigby and you can shoot it well you are talking my language!
A lot of bad press has gone out regarding what was termed "canned" hunting of lion in South Africa. While there is no such thing as feed-lot style hunting like in Colorado and Texas, by law any landowner who has dangerous game on his property has to have S.A Bureau of Standards approved fencing around his property for the protection of neighbours' assets and safety. The system regulated itself to the following standards:
No lion will be hunted that have to be fed dead carcasses - they must have the ability to roam and hunt their own prey. By default this implies that the size of the property must be such that it carries sustainable numbers of big game. This leaves me with a proposal of two interesting choices for the lion hunter:
We can go lion hunting in the unfenced wilderness of Northern Mozambique or Zimbabwe where we will hunt for tracks of a big male, shoot two or three zebra, wildebeest or whatever as bait, leave these in strategic positions and check on them three times a day and go and assassinate our lion over the bait as had been done for visiting hunters the past 100 years in Africa. That is not called "canned hunting" by the way - and neither is assassinating fattened elk from a stand at their feeding troughs in Colorado or rotund deer at their maze and pellet dispensers in Texas, or beeffalo in their hay supplied meadows in Wyoming and Colorado called "canned hunting".
Or we can go to a 50,000 - 300,000 acre property with 12' high fences, drop trackers at various places, walk ourselves around until we find the fresh tracks of a big male, load our rifles and start following them. Day old tracks would have been into wind but the wind may have swung around during the night. In time the lion will know that they are being followed, and also know that somewhere ahead there is a boundary which blocks their continual retreat from the humans following them.
Once we get within 200 yards of them, no matter us being downwind, they will know they are being pushed and that somewhere they will not be able to retreat any further. The hunter who gets taken to private land WILL shoot his lion head-on. Face to face, because lion can be pushed for only so long and then then they turn on the pusher. Your shot will have to be from the one knee kneeling position to have the rifle down at his heart level if he is approaching. He may not charge before the 20 yard mark but he WILL have a keen interest in us. That rifle with which you kill your lion face to face at 20-30 yards you will never ever get rid of.