Shot Placement (3): Gemsbok (Oryx)

Updated: May 1, 2020

I have often wondered by myself which challenge I like most:

1. Hunting blue wildebeest in dense vegetation by locating a family group, stalking them tangentially to 60-80 metres, still hiding - identifying a big cow I want, and slowly moving into position; then, with the rifle shouldered stepping out and quickly shooting her into the heart with a Peregrine 168 VRG-3 expanding monolithic flat nose before they run; or

2. Riding on the back of a truck in the dune Kalahari and finding fresh tracks across the sandy 50,000 acres ranch , checking them for freshness, taking a full water bottle and leaving the truck for it to drive on for a ways; then following the tracks in the red sand, cresting each dune in a leopard crawl to check the "street" (shallow valley between dunes), finally finding the herd and picking the fattest bull or cow which invariably will be 200 - 250 meter away. If at 250 meter putting the Musgrave .308W's crosshairs 3 inches above the impact point from a comfortable prone on the hot sand and putting the 150 gr Peregrine VRG-1 monolithic solid brass bullet into the heart. Then sending the tracker to call the truck in and spending time in the quiteness of the big Kalahari - taking in the hugeness of Creation.

Hunting gemsbok will always be a most satisfying challenge. Shooting it properly in the end is a particular challenge and a good shot is immensely satisfying. Making a too high lung shot is easy for the new-to-Africa-hunter who shoots instinctively as he would on deer. The very deep chest makes a too high shot into the lungs an easy mistake and the hunter will pay for that with sweat and thirst and sandy dunes to cross - cresting each one in a crawl.

The anatomy arrangement to understand is that the shoulder extends forward and past the front leg. "Behind the shoulder" is in line with the front shin of the lower front leg. What is popularly called "behind the shoulder" by many shooters in fact means "BEHIND THE UPPER LEG". In Africa game, except for the leopard and warthog there is nothing behind the leg to shoot for. The Northern Hemisphere's context of "behind the shoulder" still causes wounded game to be lost.

Closely study and compare the above diagramme with the photo below where the skin shows all the relevant bones to be used for aiming. The heart is mostly covered by the raised humerus due to the stance of this young, first time pregnant heifer:

Look at this photo below and see how the deep chest calls for an apparent, almost silly low impact point:

and this one:

A few distant views:

You decide the aiming point (hint: by now you know the anatomy: it is three inches above the elbow)

Cartridges suitable for gemsbok: any of the .30" and 7mms. For the .300 Win Mag only well constructed bullets of at least 200 gr must be used, 180 gr for the 30-06 / 308W, 175 gr for the 7mm Rem Mag and 160-170 gr for the 7x57 Mauser / 7mm-08 Rem. The 6.5x57mm Mauser using 156 gr locally made PMP ProAmm bullets is a popular gemsbok cartridge with Kalahari ranchers.

Gemsbok are aggressive by nature. If the visitor sits in the shade of a tree at a Kalahari waterhole in the heat he will witness incessant fighting by bulls. The sheer ferocity and swordmanship may be the best memory trophy he will take home with him. This aggressive nature causes gemsbok to not take kindly to the cause of his suffering by a bullet through the high lungs, or behind the lungs perforating his diaphragm.

If he is down but alive the often proclaimed in US gun forums way of touching the muzzle of your loaded rifle to his eye with the finger on the trigger will see the rifle flying, and before that, the shot going off in any of a thousand directions. The position of the hunter and the dynamics around the animal on the ground to do this must be thought through before such untested theories are attempted in practice. A horn into the loins is no easy challenge to survive.

American girls invariably shoot lights out, AND they listen to the PH regarding where to place the bullet.

This one was a local lady but even she followed the PHs instructions to the letter with a perfect top of the heart shot from 180 meter away with her CZ 550 .308W and a 180 gr Federal Fusion bullet.

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