SOUTH AFRICA: Handgun Hunting On The Edge Of The Kalahari

Bearskinner

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Hunting with Madubula safaris, John Abraham and Johan Maritz as my personal PH. Our camp in S. Africa near the Botswana border, was made up of such a beautiful backdrop of acacia trees and a rare sea of light green grasses. 2021 has had much more precipitation than years past, Rare for this area along the Edge of the Kalahari. After days of travel thru multiple country’s, time to relax and enjoy our fantastic accommodations.
The next morning, checking our equipment on the range, perfect, ready to go. The fleet of land cruisers, heading off in multiple directions. Riding in the high seat, commands a view of rolling dunes and grasses flowing in the breeze. Right out of camp, animals are everywhere. I had a couple must have on this trip, a wide Kudu and Zebra, for sure. We spent the first day getting the lay of the land, traversing thru “Springbok Valley” and a few wide open expanses, with Rhino, giraffe, and Gemsbok all around.
Starting off early day two, my PH, tracker and skinner were pointing out animals everywhere, out to half a mile away. I am always in Awe of the pros ability to find an ear or hoof, behind a bush or tree, hundreds of yards away. That afternoon, the tip of a horn, brought the land cruiser to a stop, as the excitement in Afrikaans, got us trekking around a dune, peeking thru the grass into the next valley.
“3 kudu, 1 is very wide. We need to see if we can get close”, Johan my PH said. The stalk seemed perfect, as the wide kudu was in the shade, standing, looking off in the other direction. The sticks came up, and a 140 yard shot presented itself. Using my G2 Contender, launching 260 grain Accubonds, at about 2000fps, in the 378GNR, the shot felt good.
SMACK, in the pocket, impacting the off shoulder, a little high. He stumbled, and dove into the brush. The bushy area was pretty small, and he had not left, so after a few minutes, we backed away, and around the back side of the dune, slowly peeking over the top. At 30 yards, he was laying down, looking where the shot came from, 180 degrees from our current location. Visually, we could only see ears and horns. As I raised the Contender, Johan nodded to me, and whistled. Then clapped his hands, then whistled again. Mr Kudu was having none of this, and would not get up or leave the heavy bush. He whispered anchor him where you presume the shoulder to be.
Aiming carefully, tick, pfffffff. What the??
Cracking the G2 open, the head of the case rolled out, the larger portion of the brass, stuck in the chamber. I immediately grabbed another cartridge, and tried pulling them prying the partial case out with the bullet tip. Johan handed me his rifle, I shook my head no. I don’t want to use a rifle under any circumstances. About this time the Kudu, stumbled away downhill, into a larger bushy area. Johan told me to go get my other gun. What a way to start the hunt. My heart sank as PH Johan and Tracker TK, stayed guarding the brushy area, as Lucky and I hoofed it back to the truck. We agreed if he was to leave the brush, they would not let him get away, and suffer.
With Fixit driving like crazy, we got back to camp, I grabbed my FA83, with bandolier and ammo, back in the land cruiser and off. I hung the contender shoulder rig on one side of the rifle rack, and the .454 on the other. A perfect set up to hold two holstered handguns. It seemed like forever to get back in the field, but with the guys talking on the radio, Lucky gave me a thumbs up. I opened the G2 again, and the now cooled half brass, fell out. I dropped a 375 caliber cigar into the chamber, as we arrived back to the canyon. We drove in a little too far, and TK jumped up, from his view point, and pointed to the bushes 50 yards in front of us. Driving in from this direction, it looked very different, and up popped the kudus head, upon seeing the truck. I quickly jumped to the other side of the truck bed, knelt on the back, side seat, and was able to finish the Kudu as he was attempting to gain his feet. The shot diagonally thru the chest, coursing back exiting in front of the L ham, rolled him. I was elated and flustered at the same time.

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There was no ground shrinkage here. A very wide Kudu, and the debockled but successful start to this trip, was now completed. The crew does such a professional job of prepping and positioning the animals for respectful photos.

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Ok, now all the craziness is taken care of. The next day started off by driving thru a large group of Giraffe, sort of like a Jurassic park moment. A fantastic experience. I had both handguns nicely positioned on the rifle rack, with ammo pack for each, at the ready to grab and go. Spotting and glassing so much game every day has a way of releasing stress like nothing else on earth.
A lone Blue Wildebeest was trotting away from us off in the distance, he slowed a bit, going straight away, and as we drove around a dune, I pointed in the direction of the Wildebeest, and Johan gave me a thumbs up. We had talked about many different hunts, and tactics, and he whispered “let’s bail”. We were shielded from the big Blue, and worked over to a treed area with tall grass, FA83 in hand. The idea was to hold in the thick area, as the guys kept driving, crossing in front of him, getting him to hopefully turn back towards us for a shot.
I love it when a plan comes together, as the saying goes. Leaning against an Acadia tree, I felt solid with about any shot. At about 65 yards, heading back towards us at that funny lope, that Wildebeest do, I held on his R shoulder, as his R leg stepped forward, the Leupold 2.5x8 ( on 4x) crosshairs felt perfect.
At the shot, he did a somersault and a half. Wow! “Well Done” Johan slapped me on the back. He grabbed my arm and said “let’s make sure he doesn’t get up and run.” Coming up on him, I got down low, and paid the insurance round. A cool flush came over me, even in the heat of the African sun. Once again Johan took me aside, handed me a icy cold beverage, as the guys cleaned and positioned the Wildebeest, for a few photos. Then we loaded up and headed back to camp. So far a fantastic start, all things considered. Two critters, using my two handguns.

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Bearskinner

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The only must haves on this trip, were a Zebra and a wide racked Kudu. I was pretty open to filling some other tags. Riding in the back of the Land Cruisers takes you to another world, like stepping back in time, to where nothing matters but the Safari. I brought along two of my “go to” handguns, I had a 12” G2 Contender in 378GNR, and a FA83 in .454 Casull. 260 grain Accubonds in the 375, and 300 grain Sierras in .454. I was hoping to use the revolver exclusively, but this area along the edge on the Kalahari was wide open, and longer ranges were the norm.
The accommodations and staff were phenomenal, as to be expected. Each day out, zebra was tops on the list, but it seems they were always 800 yards out and running, every time we jumped a little herd. Hunting was great, and everyone in camp was having a glorious time. With a few critters tagged, I still needed a zebra. Early the next morning we parked between two “dunes” ( every hill is a dune, the valleys are Streets) and searched in every direction for some stripes. Finding a small herd of 8 or so, the plan was to take the long way around, and be out in front of them , as they crossed over a dune down into the street. We played that game for the better part of the day, over and over, then lost track of them.
Around the back side of a small dune, just peeking over the top, and there they were. They trotted up the far side of the next dune, my PH Johan was calling off distance. At about 265 yards, the stallion stopped to look back, and I had an instant to send an Accubond.

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With my hold over figured in my head, the sight picture was steady, and just as he was turning his head to follow the herd, the hammer dropped. I didn’t feel the recoil or hear the shot, but there was a resounding THUMP. It looked as if he jumped over on his side, instantly down. I was elated, to say the least. The driver fired up the truck and we had to back down the Dune we were on, then go around and come up on the far side of where the Zebra was down. As we got within about 10 yards, I dropped to one knee, and paid the insurance round. He hadn’t moved from where he fell, but the extra round is cheap insurance.

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What a magnificent animal. Not the greatest animal I was able to take on this hunt, but a long searched for animal with a positive outcome. That evening was the “Sundowner”
A few miles from camp, on a high ridge, the staff had a world class snack table and full wet bar set up, with a row of chairs, facing a beautiful sunset. The weather was warm but cooling as the sun was falling to the other side of the world. Enjoying times like this with good friends is about as good as it gets.

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VertigoBE

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Congratulations on a great hunt @Bearskinner!
It takes a lot of confidence in yourself and your equipment to go handgun hunting!
 

375 Ruger Fan

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Quite a story on the kudu, congratulations.
 

Bearskinner

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With my must have animals from this trip, in the salt shed, time to go explore and see what presents itself. We have seen large herds of Gemsbok daily, while passing thru a couple valleys, always heading elsewhere. Discussing it with my PH, we headed towards springbok valley and points beyond. We cross crossed the area staying off the main trail, as to try and spot something, before they were in full run away from us.
One of the trackers snapped his fingers, and of course spotted a hoof under a bush 800 yards away. Johan, my PH said with a big grin “ this is an Exceptional springbok, I have never seen one this big” “ we must go after him”
When you PH says that, no questions, just go!
We parked the land cruised past a dune, so we were out of view, and trekked in a semi circle, back the way we came. Sneaking over the top, and part way down the face, we could see a few springbok watching the way we were driving before. From a sitting position, sticks in the ground on the side of the dune, as I put the G2 on the sticks, the sand would not stop moving. Digging my heels in, trying to hold my position was an effort in futility. Pulling the sticks towards me I placed the scope on the shoulder of the huge male. As he slowly stepped forward, I eased the trigger, and I could feel myself attempting to lift on the sticks with my off hand, as I gently released the shot.
I instantly knew I blew it, as I was still slowly sliding down the dune. My PH was watching thru binocs, as they all hustled off to parts unknown. I knew the sticks were sinking in the sand, as I was. Clean miss, low, at 200 yards.
“Let’s go, they will stay in these valleys, we can come back”. Feeling dejected, I got back in the high seat of the Cruiser. The nice thing about Africa, is there is always excitement around every turn. Within 15 minutes, we were seeing Gemsbok.
With a few different groups spotted, we parked and glassed. Johan put his finger to his lips, and signaled quiet. We headed towards a heavy bushy area a few hundred yards away. There was one lone Gemsbok in there, only horn tips could be seen . We got to the heavy cover, and circled it, no Gemsbok. One of the trackers back by the truck, was pointing over the hill to our side. How that huge critter was able to sneak away, amazed me, but then again, they do it for a living. Back in the land cruiser, taking the long way around, hopefully to get out ahead.
Sneaking around a brush pile at the top of the dune, movement. There he was about 75 yards. A quick off hand shot, THUMP. Folded up, hit the ground, then bounced right back up, trotting away on 3 legs. Back to the truck, driving fast down around the dune. The driver slams on the brakes. As we came around the sand hill, there was my Gemsbok leaning on the brush pile, unable to run, barely 30 yards from where he took off. From the high seat, I leaned on the roof of the cab, and the gemsbok fell at the shot. I fully expected him to be out ahead running.
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I paid an insurance round, a high shoulder shot, just in case. The first shot thru the R shoulder broke up the off shoulder, and separated the aorta from the lungs. The second shot, thru the chest facing me, exited the R side behind the ribs, in front of the rear hip. From the G2, 378GNR, No 260 grain accubonds were recovered, all full pass thrus.

Later that day, back to springbok valley.
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No more shooting off the down side of a sand dune, in moving sand! Not 15 minutes in the valley, cross crossing, looking for that huge one that got away, peeking over dune and bush, “right there, standing in front of those two trees.” With a rock solid rest, “distance?” I asked, “265” with the hold just right, smack! Instant down. Jump up on the truck, to get down across the valley, up he goes, and takes off running full speed over the dune, on 3 legs.
The blood trail was easy to follow, even for me, in the back of the cruiser. How that little animal ran as far as he did, on 3 legs with no heart. He just didn’t know he was dead yet. African critters are just tough as nails!
As Springbok go, he is huge, over 17”. Again, the guys did a superb job cleaning and positioning him for handsome pictures. Very respectful of them.

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The Raised fire pit area off the dining room. Many a beverage, and story were shared around this area.
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With 2 days remaining on my Safari, and tagged out, we explored the border towns along the Botswana border. A bushman family, living along a road, selling their hand made wares, were polite and shared some pictures. (with our 2 PH’s) The Bushmen are the oldest civilization on earth.

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Next day Stuart and myself were finished hunting, we went with out 2 PH’s and helped them gather camp meat. I picked out a small springbok, and will get the small skull cleaned so I can have it plated in copper, like a friend of mine has in chrome. The last two days were a great way to wind down, before the 3 1/2 day trip home.
5 more months till I get to return. I can’t wait!
 

Bearskinner

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Quite a story on the kudu, congratulations.
I learned my lesson about using older properly headstamped brass. Finding 378GNR headstamped stuff is getting tough (405 winchester, necked to 375) I have lots of virgin 405 brass, but I don’t want to create issues with “different” caliber on the brass and gun. On two trips thru Johannesburg this year, one trip each case was counted, noted, and matched to a firearm. The next trip, they didn’t even look at the ammo. Still, I will use proper head stamped stuff. I was fortunate enough to acquire 20 pieces of virgin 378 stamped brass, so good for a few more trips with newer brass.
 

gesch

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Very interesting to be able to shoot those distances with a hand gun. Wow. Very beautiful animals. Way to go. Thank you for your report. Could you explain abit about hunting with a revolver. I am very ignorant about this type of hunting. Thanks again. Your friend, Brian
 

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Well done, congrats :D Cheers:
 

Bearskinner

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Very interesting to be able to shoot those distances with a hand gun. Wow. Very beautiful animals. Way to go. Thank you for your report. Could you explain abit about hunting with a revolver. I am very ignorant about this type of hunting. Thanks again. Your friend, Brian
One thing to remember, these are not over the counter, inexpensive plastic fantastic handguns. The Freedom Arms is ( in my opinion the best) a quality revolver, further worked on, and a large brake installed to keep the scope off my fore head. It also helps me get on target for follow up shots much quicker. My own hand loads are not full house loads, they are loaded for accuracy first.
The G2Contender is a bit abusive also, and the brake helps a lot. The custom Reeder cartridge has a similar trajectory as a heavy bullet in a 30-06. A 375 caliber, 260 grain accubond, at 2050FPS in a 12” barrel. If the gun were in a vice, it would shoot probably better than an average rifle. Now hold it at arms length, in one hand. The only restrictions in the areas we hunted this year are 8+” barrel, and some sort of optic. A pretty broad explanation. The FA83 was built just for Africa, with the 9” barrel.
Getting a quality rest is the key on long shots. I can shoot either gun one handed quickly at 40 yards. At 240, I can’t hold on an animal without a rest, like a tree, sticks, hood of truck, let alone make a humane quick kill.
Many times there is no shot due to getting the handgun scope ( held at full arms length to acquire sight picture) on plane, then on target. I’ve heard it described as “like bow hunting, but noisy” I hunt for the hunt not for the kill, although that is the finished plan. I do not prefer shots over 200 yards. But that’s hunting, and this area along the edge of the Kalahari, is pretty wide open. My guns are capable of much more than I can physically do. 30 years ago I was a much better shot as well. I’m sure a professional would think nothing of very long shots, and do it a lot quicker than I can. I’m ok with that, I’m there for my enjoyment.
 

gesch

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Thanks for the informstion. Still amazing with a handgun. You have wild skills! Your friend Brian.
 

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Nery Nice thanks for sharing.
 

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Awesome story and photos and impressive with a pistol!
 

meigsbucks

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Congratulations. It sounds and appears you had a fantastic hunt. That is a nice wide kudu.
Taking game with a handgun has a special sense of accomplishment, similar to archery.
 

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I had to research the 378 GNR. What a beast! 48 ftlbs of recoil! Yikes! I think that would snap my old wrist in half!
Excellent shooting sir and some exceptional trophies!
Thanks for taking us with you!
 

Bearskinner

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It’s a pretty effective round. Full pass thrus on Zebra, kudu, gemsbok, and of course springbok. If I was using a 26” barrel it would be close to 375 H&H, but won’t get there with a 12” barrel one handed.
That’s the fun of it all.
 

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trstallone wrote on HUNTROMANIA's profile.
I've Hunted So.Africa, love to try Romania
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Mark, How did your hunt go with Wayne in Zimbabwe?
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