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Hunting The Grey Ghost

Updated: Sep 14, 2022

End of winter hunting season in Limpopo Province, South Africa

Only the odd tamboti trees have leaves, the white-buffalo grass has a dried out pale yellow tint (but still amazingly nutritious). The dust glows orange in the sun two hours before it sets and lingers under and around twenty or so fat stud cows ambling towards the ranch house a mile to the east where their young calves are waiting to lactate in a leopard-proof corral.

The two hunters shield their scope lenses against the dust and then slog west, backtracking the cows' hoof prints, the dry, deep sand giving added exercise to their ankle and knee ligaments. Both have their rifles slung over their shoulders as it still is a mile to go against the slight incline where they want to be an hour before sunset to sit in ambush for kudu. The rifle slings are an immediate giveaway that these are city dwellers who hunt once a year and spend their leisure hours at gun shops where all the paraphernalia and hunting talk are at least temporary escapes from the pressures of business and work. At a gate in a low fence - the bottom wire of which is smooth and 400 mm above ground so that impala and red hartebeest can crawl underneath, they stop for a drink of cool water from their flasks and close the gate behind them.

As they turn around to follow the sandy track towards the west he suddenly is there. A 48" kudu bull that appeared as if from nowhere is standing perfectly side-on in the bush track, looking at them from 50 metres away. For two reasons the first impression is shock: THIS is exactly what they are after; and of course his sheer magnificence: the fuzzy, almost indistinct outline of his body against the dense vegetation, his thick neck and horns with a deep curl define him. The more experienced hunter slides his rifle off his shoulder and at this movement the bull walks on into the dark grey trees and thorn bush.

The hunter stalks ahead while his buddy squats down in the sand. He enters the bush, following where the kudu had gone. Scanning into every open lane, under every tree he sees nothing. There is nothing - not a sound of hooves rustling the dry winter leaves on the ground, not a flicking ear. Nothing. There is no kudu. He takes time and patiently peers into the shady spots. "Was a kudu here, or was there not?", is the trick that his mind plays on him - a trick that had been played on kudu hunters in South Africa for more than 300 years. If you hunt the grey ghost on 6,000 acres of pristine bushveld you may or may not see him - and if you see him your rifle must be in your hands and not hang on a sling over your shoulder. In fact there must be no sling on your rifle. It is a distinctly stupid, snagging, add-on encumbrance thought out by gun shops. You have four seconds to kill him or he will be gone.

A mile further on the hunters approach another gate a mere 100 metres from where they hopefully will ambush a kudu on its way to water. The lead hunter wordlessly signals to his mate to quietly open the gate and indicates with his hand that the partner must sit down. He softly chambers a round and sets the CZ 550's bolt into the indent and noiselessly stalks ahead, shielded by a stand of sekelbos thorn bush - not that he expects anything until an hour later; but who knows with kudu? He slowly side steps away from the bush to view the drinking place ahead and his heart almost stops because three kudu cows and a 5-year old bull with very good horns are in an opening not more than 70 yards ahead. They spot him and trot away into the bush. The hunter is disappointed, but he waits.

Then the bull re-appears some 100 metres away and turns and looks in his direction - presenting the most difficult shot possible - the heart's top chambers inside the body is direcly behind the bulge of the shoulder joint.

By muscle memory, taking a deep breath as he slowly shoulders the 30-06 the hunter's thumb pushes the bolt handle out of the indent and into full cock; as he breathes out the crosshairs lower and settle on the shoulder bulge; he stops the outgoing breath and evenly tightens his shooting hand's grip on the slender wood. The shot comes as if by itself and the kudu trips and partly falls into the 200 gr Lapua Mega bullet from the CZ, swings around in a tight circle, takes off on a hard run and then ploughs into the sand 40 yards on - dead.

Below is hunter Pierre with his very pleasing 45 1/2" kudu.

The standard autopsy process at the skinning facility on the ranch showed a neat hole through the shoulder joint whereafter the bullet passed between two ribs, cleanly removed the aorta group from the top of the heart, punched a 4x calibre hole trough an opposite rib, bulging against the skin. Massive damage was done to both lung lobes too.

The Lapua "Mega" was cut from under the skin and it appears to have retained about 77% of its 200 gr weight. For a cup and core bullet that had punched through the hard bone of a kudu bull's humerus-scapula joint that is good performance. What was pleasing to see was that despite not having a soldered bond between the lead core and copper jacket the lead appears to be clinging to the jacket in any case.

This is how South African meat hunters like a bullet to perform - and certainly the Lapua Mega is added to the few imported cup and core bullets that meet the expectations of local hunters: the others are the Federal Fusion, Hornady Interbond, Interlock and the GMX. This demand for a premium bullet that does not suffer weight loss during impact is the reason why there are at least eight South African manufacturers of premium quality monolithic expanding and solid bullets in operation - each with some unique feature but all designed to retain 100% weight during penetration. This latter ability is arguably the most important feature of any bullet.

Another impressive trophy taken by the same hunter: A one-tusked very old warthog boar, also taken with a 200 gr Lapua Mega from the CZ 550 30-06.

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