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PH Rifle Suggestions For 10 Popular African Hunts

PH Rifle Suggestions For 10 Popular African Hunts

Not all Dark Continent hunts are the same. Some of Africa's top PHs weigh in on what gun to bring when you hunt with them.

Volumes of literature have been written about which caliber is best for hunting African game, and as long as there is hunting on the Dark Continent the controversy will continue. Africa, however, is an incredibly immense place, and hunting one species in the dense, thorn thickets of Zimbabwe may require a different rig than hunting the same animal on the vast flood plains of Mozambique's coutadas. Not only do you have to match your rifle to the animals you are hunting, you also have to have a rifle that suits the terrain and cover found in that hunting area.

African PHs see more game animals taken in a single season than most of us see in a lifetime. Because of this, they have a very good understanding of which calibers and bullets work the best, particularly in the areas they hunt.

I've assembled a team of six of the Dark Continent's best professional hunters to recommend a caliber or two that they recommend for a single species where they hunt. From the sands of the Kalahari to the flooded Zambeze Delta, these pros give their best advice on what gun to bring on the hunt of a lifetime.

It's worth noting that all six hunters had a very similar preface to their recommendations. Every PH questioned stated that they recommend their clients to bring a rifle they have shot often and trust, load it with premium, heavy-for caliber bullets and top it off with good glass. Bigger calibers won't make up for marginal shooting, so bring a gun that you can handle.

Now, let's take a look at ten of Africa's greatest hunts and see what rifles the pros that hunt there recommend...

Image courtesy of Ndumo Safaris

BUFFALO IN THE DELTA

PH: Mark Haldane, Zambeze Delta Safaris

Rifle Recommendation: .416 Rigby or .416 Remington Magnum

Mark Haldane spends much of the safari season leading clients after buffalo on the vast, treeless floodplains of Mozambique's coastal Zambeze Delta. There are lots of buffalo here, and it's possible to find herds numbering 500 animals. The problem, however, is that the buffalo you want might not be the one closest to you.

'They spread out, and although you may be 30 yards from buffalo, the bull you would like to take is often 120 yards out, ' Haldane says. He recommends a scoped .416 Rigby or .416 Remington Magnum, which he has found to be very effective on buffalo on the plains as well as the safaris they conduct in other forested areas. These calibers are flat-shooting and hard-hitting, meaning that a practiced hunter can cleanly take buffalo over a hundred yards. On the other end of the spectrum, the .416s have the power necessary to drop a bull up close if things get ugly.

It's interesting to note that all of the PHs I spoke with recommended a .40-caliber or larger rifle for buffalo. Food for thought.

Image courtesy of Mark Haldane

LIONS IN THE VALLEY

PH: Gavin Rorke, Gavin Rorke Safaris

Recommendation: .375H&H Magnum or .416

Lions aren't particularly large, but they are plenty dangerous and it pays to have a rifle with ample power that you can shoot well when pursuing cats in thick bush.

Gavin Rorke, who owns and operates Gavin Rorke Safaris in one of the best hunting areas in Zimbabwe's legendary Zambezi Valley, hunts plenty of lion each year and he's had ample opportunity to see which calibers work and which ones don't. His recommendation is the .375 H&H Magnum for a variety of reasons.

'The .375 has great ballistics and hunters who don't shoot a lot of big guns can handle it, ' Gavin says. 'There is also a great variety of off-the-shelf ammunition loaded with premium bullets for the .375 for hunters who do not reload. ' Gavin says one of the .416s is his second choice for lions.

Plus, when you are camped in the valley and a lion roars in the moonlight outside your tent, you'll be happy to have that big gun keeping you company.

ELEPHANTS IN THE STRIP

PH: Karl Stumpfe, Ndumo Safaris

Recommendation: .416 or .450/400 Nitro Express

The Caprivi Strip is catching on as one of Africa's premier elephant hunting destinations and guys like Karl Stumpfe are the reason why. Owner of Ndumo Safaris, Karl leads his clients after a variety of game in the Caprivi each year, though he is particularly fond of hunting elephants in thick bush.

Elephant hunting is one of Africa's most specialized pursuits, often requiring stalking to within a few yards before taking the shot. At that range the elephants look over the hunter, and when you take your shot you'd better make it count.

Karl recommends that hunters bring a .416 with them when pursuing jumbos, or, for double rifle fans, the .450/400 Nitro Express. The rifle should have quality iron sights.

LEOPARDS OF THE LOWVELD

PH: Collen Van Der Linden, Zambezi Hunters

Recommendations: .375 H&H Magnum or a .300 Magnum

Leopards in Zimbabwe's Lowveld region have the potential to reach immense size. Even though they are among the largest leopards in the world, they still weigh about as much as a big northern whitetail. Nevertheless, Zambezi Hunters PH Collen Van Der Linden prefers that his clients bring along the African queen, the .375 H&H Magnum. Collen also recommends the .300 magnums up to and including the .300 Weatherby, though he shies away from really hot rounds like the .30-.378 Weatherby. Above all else be sure that any rifle you bring on a leopard hunt is very accurate and be practiced enough to shoot well in those heart-stopping moments when a big cat is on the bait. No PH wants to clean up your mistakes and go digging into heavy bush looking for a leopard that has been shot badly.

Image courtesy Jan Erkamp/Wikipedia

RHINOS BULLS ON THE 'BERG

PH: Joof Lamprecht, Hunters Namibia Safaris

Recommendations: .458 Winchester Magnum and .470 Nitro Express

Joof Lamprecht is one of Namibia's best-known and most respected PHs and even has a Russell Moccasin hunting boot named in his honor. Joof has indeed covered many miles under the Namibian sun and has led hundreds of clients on safari, including safaris for rhino.

Namibia's Waterberg Plateau certainly ranks among the most fascinating hunting areas in the world. Even among Africa's immense variety of hunting locales the 'Berg is special. The Waterberg is a giant massif that rises 600 feet above the surrounding plains and the top is a completely different ecosystem than the surrounding savannah. The red sand and odd rock formations make this one of the most spectacular places in the world to hunt the most difficult of the Big Five to collect, the rhino.

Joof and his son Jofie have both led safaris after rhino and Joof puts his faith in the .458 Winchester Magnum and the .470 Nitro Express. Why? They work, period. Over the course of his long career and his many years in the field Joof has found that rifles chambered in these two cartridges, when loaded with quality bullets and placed in the hands of a shooter that can handle them, will stop even the largest game, including rhino.

NYALA IN THE COUTADA

PH: Mark Haldane, Zambeze Delta Safaris

Recommendations: .300 Magnum

Nyala are among the most magnificent of all African trophies, but if you want to take one in the coutadas, or hunting areas, of coastal Mozambique you'd better have a flat-shooting rifle, says Mark Haldane.

'We have a lot of Nyala in our blocks, Coutada 11 and Coutada 12 , ' says Haldane. 'We hunt them around the drying pans in the late season. Typically these pans can be 100 acres or more. The big bulls come out shortly before dark. There isn't much time to move great distances so a flat shortly rifle with good knock down power is important. The .300 caliber rifles with a good controlled expansion bullet does the job just fine. '

Mozambique's floodplains are one of the few areas in southern Africa where long-range shooting is the norm. In this case the .300 magnum has the reach and the power to get the job done and put that big nyala bull in the salt.

Image courtesy of National Biological Information Infrastructure

ZIMBABWE ZEBRA

PH: Thierry Labat, Zambezi Hunters

Recommendations: .375 H&H Magnum or a .300 Magnum

Scratching your head on this one? Consider this: Labat believes that the .375 and .300 are fabulous for all the plains game in Save, including much smaller game like impala, warthog and bushbuck. Before you shake your head in contempt consider that African hunting is unique in that the day you set out to find your zebra just might be the very morning you encounter a big, gnarly buffalo, an old lion or a fine eland. If you've got a .375 you'll be covered in all cases. Second, most of the shooting in the Save is under 200 yards, so you don't need a long-range cartridge. African game is notoriously tough to bring down and the last thing you want on your once-in-a-lifetime hunt is to spend the days winging and losing game with a rifle that just isn't up to par. The .375 H&H was a hit when it was introduced a century ago and, with modern bullets, loads and optics it is better today than ever before. To quote Thierry, 'You can't kill anything deader than dead. '

Photo Copyright - Ben Gettinger

KUDU IN THE ERONGO MOUNTAINS

PH: Joof Lamprecht, Hunters Namibia Safaris

Recommendations: .338 Winchester Magnum

I don't think there is a more magnificent antelope in the world than the greater kudu and there are many other hunters that share my sentiment. The good news is that kudu are abundant in many countries, but perhaps the best area for kudu are the Erongo Mountains of central Namibia. Prices are fair, the quality is good and the odds of getting that trophy you've always dreamed of are really high. But you have to do your part, which means bringing along a rifle that shoots well and hits hard enough to drop these elk-sized antelope.

Joof didn't bother to recommend a second rifle for kudu; he stands by the .338 Winchester Magnum as the kudu round and even goes as far as to specifically recommend 250-grain Partitions. This makes perfect sense when you consider that many elk guides on this side of the Atlantic have a soft spot for Winchester's big .338. What do they like about the cartridge? It shoots flat, hits hard and it is deadly when you put a well-constructed bullet in the vitals of a big ungulate, be it an elk in the Rockies of a kudu in the Namibian hills.

Consider that Joof also recommends the same rifle/load combo for lion, leopard, oryx, and any other large plains game animals. Seems the .338 is finally gaining a strong following on the Dark Continent.

Photo Copyright - Ben Gettinger

GENERAL BAG SAFARI IN THORNBUSH COUNTRY

PH: Collen Van Der Linden, Zambezi Hunters

Recommendations: .300 Magnum

Collen prefers that his client carries a .300 magnum when hunting general plains game and leopards. Most of the common .300s will serve this purpose well including the .300 Winchester Magnum, the .300 Weatherby, .300 WSM, .300 RCM and the vintage .300 Holland and Holland. Again, he recommends heavy-for-caliber premium bullets.

Outside of the large dangerous game like buffalo and elephant there is very little game that a .300s aren't suited for. If you are on a plains game safari it will cover most everything you are likely to encounter and even though Zimbabwe's thorn country means you probably won't have to reach out far to get your game the .300s have a flat trajectory for the occasional long shot and plenty of power for anything that's not dangerous. The Save region where Collen and the other pros at Zamezi Hunters operate has an abundance of plains game from diminutive grysbok to one-ton eland. With the right bullet and a well-placed shot you can take them all with your trusty three-hundred.

Photo Copyright - Ben Gettinger

SPRINGBOK IN THE LITTLE SERENGETI

PH: Karl Stumpfe, Ndumo Safaris

Recommendations: .260 Remington or 7x64 Brenneke

Damaraland, in northwestern Namibia, has been called the 'Little Serengeti ' because of its sweeping plains, low, rocky hills and scattered acacia trees. Damaraland is also one of the few places listed here where you may have to make a long shot, and Ndumo's Karl Stumpfe likes the .260 Remington. Second on his list is the German classic, the 7x64 Brenneke. Though the cartridge doesn't have a large following in the States, the 7x64 is a darling of European and African hunters and the cartridge is still common in Namibia. Karl admits that a .243 Winchester would be fantastic for long shots on springbok, but Damarland is home to a host of plainsgame and the versatility of the larger calibers will pay dividends on heavier game.

Photo Copyright - Ben Gettinger

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