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Timing Your Shot in Africa

This is a discussion on Timing Your Shot in Africa within the Hunting Africa forums, part of the HUNT AFRICA category; This question comes from the Shot Placement on Leopard thread but seems worthy of a whole discussion itself. Personally, I ...

  1. #1
    Cleathorn is offline AH Senior Member
    Oct 2009

    Member of SCI; NRA; Niagara Sportsmen Club

    Hunted Most of US, Canada, South America, New Zealand, Australia; South Africa, Zimbabwe

    Default Timing Your Shot in Africa

    This question comes from the Shot Placement on Leopard thread but seems worthy of a whole discussion itself.

    Personally, I grew up in the eastern US, where whitetail deer ARE the big animal to hunt. Whitetails are plentiful but very spooky, wily, at times almost ghostly critters. Most get shot on the opening day (something like 70&#37 because of the pure chaos but "hunting them" is very tricky. One thing you have to do is take the shot you get. Often that means very or no set-up time. You have to be there, ready and shoot when you can.

    When I started hunting the western US, the outfitters biggest complaints were that hunters would not shoot quick enough, because its such wide open country they are used to seeing game all the time. Its usually a long, real long, wat away. But when its in close, hunters are too slow to react. Generally they love whitetail hunters because we have usually shot and are looking for blood while the guide is still judging an Elk rack or a mule deer spread - wondering what the heck happened.

    IN Africa, is seems to be some of both. On kudu - shoot when you can, where you can, with a big rifle to knock it down. On Leopard, be silent, patient, wait, wait, wait, study, study and when that shot presents itself, use the the split second you have for a perfect shot. It seems a conundrum - sometimes you almost cannot get the shot going fast enough and others is slow and patient to the endth degree?

    Is there a general philosophy or did I just describe the role of the PH?

  2. #2
    Jul 2009

    Member of SCI and PHASA

    Hunted South Africa and Zambia

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    Hi Clearthorn

    In my experience the biggest problem when hunting leopard is just to get the client used to the idea (people get very stressed up and who can blame them) so if you’re lucky enough to have a leopard come into a bait and hang around to feed the first thing I would do is let the client just look at him and steady his nerves(not to say that I am not nervous as well).The hunt is largely mental and you need to control your feelings don’t hide the fact that your nervous but take it in as a good thing this is natural.

    I wait for the shot to present itself most of the time a leopard will move around to get a comfortable spot on the branch to start feeding often leaning on the bait. It is very important to wait until he starts to feed before you make any sudden movements the cat will only feed once he is comfortable.

    As soon as there is a broadsided shot take it some Leopards don’t hang around for too long.

    After the shot they either drop or bolt off at the speed of light in too some densely bushed thicket nearby. This is not an indication off a good or a bad shot but if he drops straight down it is better for the nerves LOL.

    The follow up is always tense as it should be but the most important thing will be to listen to your PH he will know best.

    Good luck and I hope this helps a bit.

    Cheers Louis
    Louis Van Bergen
    Spiral Horn Safaris - South Africa
    Cell:+ 27 76 577 6292

  3. #3's Avatar is online now Jerome Philippe, Founder of
    Oct 2007

    Member of

    Hunted Namibia, South Africa, Zimbabwe, France, Spain, USA


    Timing is definitely an essential aspect of hunting that is why practice shooting and getting comfortable with your rifle in various situations, distances and positions cannot be emphasized enough. In Africa, many times it is matter of seconds to seize or miss an opportunity to shoot an animal, so confidence which comes with preparation and experience is really important.

    It is very difficult for me to put this into words but I think that it is worth saying so I will try...

    Timing for me is not just about the last moment when the trigger is pulled but about all of the moments and succession of events leading up to that squeeze of the trigger.

    First it must be said that being off on the timing can go either way, hunters can be either too slow or the other side of it is being too fast and rushing their shots which can result in missed opportunities, wounded game or worse shooting the wrong animal in the group.

    Establishing a symbiotic relationship with your PH is really important and when achieved will result in better timing of the shot and a more successful hunt. That is why for a hunter it is really important to listen and engage with their PH. A good PH will be able assess each individual clients skill level, physical ability and "hunting personality" so that he can accommodate and adapt the hunt accordingly so that when it comes to the timing of the shot things go a lot more smoothly... A PH should be able to compensate and adapt the situation to some extent for a hunter who is too rushed to pull the trigger or who is too slow to the trigger though the PH is only human and can only do so much to help the hunter.

    As a PH there is nothing better than having the opportunity to hunt with a client who is confident, a good shot, willing to listen and who you can fall into this rhythm or partnership with quickly.

    Another aspect of timing while on the hunt is also being able to properly and quickly assess your environment, ie. bush, branches, grass as well as other game in the path of your bullet. Obviously if you are sitting at a blind you have a lot of time to assess your environment which is to your advantage and that is where what Louis talked about the hunt being "largely mental" comes into play.

    Every situation is different and those complex skills that comprise this singular moment of what we are talking about which is timing your shot all comes down to practice which will give you that ability to recognize that moment of opportunity and the confidence to pull the trigger without rush or hesitation...

    Most missed opportunities occur in those last moments leading up to the pull of the trigger than during the actual shot itself, such as bullet not being engaged, safety on, making excessive noise or movement, scope lens cover on, rifle slings getting in the way, not familiar or comfortable shooting from a shooting stick, miscommunication between the hunter and PH and the list goes on...

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  4. #4
    Calhoun is offline AH Enthusiast
    Jan 2009

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    ....Jerome you basically said it all! I know exactly what Cleathorn is saying as I basically only Hunt Whitetails & that's the way it is! Get on the animal quickly & get the job done!
    ... I have had one time in Africa where my speed almost got me into trouble. We were hunting Blue Wildebeest & after 3 long tough days of tracking & stalking This certain animal my shot was presented. I took aim in about 3 seconds was squeezing the trigger when he said wait! I tryed getting my finger off the trigger & jerked the gun. It was to late! My Ph was mad because as I was taking aim a young one walked into view, which I never saw as I was concentrating on the front shoulder! Needless to say the shot was high but I did recover it after a lengthy search.
    ....Christo - my Ph jokes with me now about my speed & precise shooting. It comes with lots of practice. I mentally have visualized killing the animals I have shot hundreds of times before I ever go hunting. I have read the perfect shot probably 20 times & visualize all the shot placements on these animals so that it becomes second nature of where to aim!
    ....For Leopard I would agree with Louie I would have to relax & watch , It would be tough But I have never shot with out permission from the Ph. Excepting in the case I described before which really wasn't my fault, I was quicker than he thought!!

  5. #5
    Ray Atkinson's Avatar
    Ray Atkinson is offline AH Enthusiast
    Mar 2009

    Member of SCI Dallas

    Hunted RSA, Botswana, CAR, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mozambique, Kenya way back when, and a few others that I can't remember.


    Hunting is hunting, in your whitetail home or in Africa..If the window of opportunity presents itself then its up to you to take advantage of the situation..Your shooting ability is the difference, if you practice and you are confident then you will always be the one to bring home the bacon.

    Not much different than sports of any kind or for that matter life in general..It has always amazed me how many of our hunters have never fired a gun at an animal without some sort of rest, and never considered taking a running shot. If one learns to shoot offhand, then he can shoot from any position and shoot well IMO...I, personally see little difference in a running shot than I do in a standing broadside shot, the action on the shooters part is exactly the same, but only if the shooters has practiced and has the confidence...I never consider a miss when I shoot, I expect a solid hit.

    The same thing applies when I rope, I expect to catch..of course it does not always work that way but if you are confident in your ability it will work most of the time. I think any athelete will tell you that.

    I can suggest a couple of things that are too often over looked...When you shoot at an animal, hit or miss, immediately chamber another round and be ready...When hunting always be ready, too many times I see hunters caught with their pants down..

    With Leopard, let him settle and pick the "spot" you want to shoot, not just at the Leopard.

    If you have not prepared yourself for this then use the sticks, take your time and try and be sure of the shot..and you will lose a few by not being quick, but wounding is far worse than losing one because you weren't fast enough..

    Funny thing is I can't shoot off sticks and most of the PH I work for won't allow me to shoot with the sticks!! True story...

  6. #6
    Karamojo Bill's Avatar
    Karamojo Bill is offline AH Senior Member
    Jan 2009

    Member of SCI Portland Chapter, Oregon

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    Lightbulb shot timing

    I hunt mostly Columbia blacktail here in Oregon. They are VERY wiley and even Jim Shockey says they are among the hardest animals to hunt. Thick brush and super senses combined with the fact that they are not patternable like some other species of US deer. Yep! When the chance is there you better get the job done or you have an empty freezer for the year.

    BUT in Africa I learned two things. 1st, with dangerous game you WANT to do it RIGHT. We will agree on this. You DO NOT want a wounded dangerous animal in the brush!

    2nd, If you draw blood you bought it. It would really feel lousy to fly home having paid for a trophy you didn't recover, (not that any of us wants to loose an animal EVER or ANYWHERE).
    Karamojo Bill When I leave this world, I want to come skidding through the Pearly Gates & hear God say, "Whoa, boy! That was a heck of a ride!"

  7. #7
    Calhoun is offline AH Enthusiast
    Jan 2009

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    ...I agree with Ray that most hunters never practice off hand shooting and miss a lot of opportunities because of it. I've shot Deer & a Kudu on the run by I definitely prefer & try not to if at all possible. I fully agree I never consider missing it's not in my mentality, but it does occur on occassion!
    ... The biggest thing is chambering another round immediately & being ready for another shot. My PH was impressed that I did that, as he said too many Americans shoot once & stand there and admire there shot instead of possibly getting a 2nd shot off and preventing a long tracking job!
    ...Believe it or not I have never shot off the sticks even though I got a pair for Christmas last year. I still have never tried it. Most of my shots are either off hand, sitting, or resting against a tree. My worst position is kneeling. I practice it a lot but it just does't feel right, but I still practice it because some day I may need to!!

  8. #8
    Cleathorn is offline AH Senior Member
    Oct 2009

    Member of SCI; NRA; Niagara Sportsmen Club

    Hunted Most of US, Canada, South America, New Zealand, Australia; South Africa, Zimbabwe


    I hand load and shoot a lot. I do alot of off hand shooting, usually at 25 to 50 yards, just to practice. I do a lot of still hunting and off hand shooting in the name of the game.

    I agree with everyone who says that practice is key to being able to do that. At my club we have a neet way to practice off hand shooting at moving target. We hunt a big tire from an angled telephone pole and ran a long rope to the side with a counter weight. Lift and drop the counter weight and the tire swings for about 20 ti 30 seconds (depending on ho high you lift it. The tire swing back and forth and swirls around. The backrest is always behind it.

    There is a board in the middle that you staple you targets too. Drop the weight (or have your buddy do it) and then practice hitting your tagerts while it is swinging and swirling. Once your timing is down, its pretty easy. First time to try it, everyone around keeps there head down.

    It is usually funny to watch the competition shooters try it because they are not used to working the bolt and firing off hand. If you can rig something up, I suggest trying it. It relly makes a difference, and I feel really good at just about any target out to 100 yards, running or not, if I have a clear shoot.

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