Having recently hosted two clients on safari, I’ve spent many hours trying to figure out why so many animals were wounded / missed during the 10-day hunt. I think though that I’ve finally worked it out…
It is standard practice for me to take all my clients to the shooting range before commencing with a hunt. I do this for two reasons: (1) To sight in and check zeroes of my clients’ rifles and (2) to see if my clients can shoot straight. Few things can destroy a relationship between a landowner and an outfitter as quickly as what it does when departing from a hunting concession whilst leaving wounded animals behind and on the first day of the hunt I took my client and his son (whom we’ll call Fred) to the shooting range. Fred was not only hunting Africa for the first time ever; it was also the first time that he would be shooting at live animals but he did well on the shooting range – managing to shoot a nice grouping from 100 yards with his .30-06 loaded with 125gr ammunition.
So off we went and the hunt was on…
1st Animal missed – Southern Impala
We saw a herd of impala in the bush on the left of the road we were walking in and I told Fred to get ready, anticipating that the herd would cross the road ahead of us. My instincts were correct as the herd ended up crossing the road about 80 yards in front of us. One ram came to a standstill – broadside – for a brief moment and the blast of the .30-06 broke the silence but the shot was high and the Impala took off – not to be seen again. I attributed the miss to the fact that it was Fred’s first shot at an animal and assumed that his nerves also played a role.
2nd Animal (wounded but recovered) – Blesbok
Later that afternoon we came across a herd of Blesbok and after stalking them for a while I managed to get Fred to about 30 yards from a nice ram. The Blesbok was slightly quartering away from us and I whispered to Fred that he should aim slightly to the left of the shoulder to secure a heart shot. The reaction of the animal to the hit gave away the fact that it had been shot through the guts but fortunately, after a short follow-up stalk we managed to dispatch the animal where it was lying down in the grass.
3rd Animal (missed) – Greater Kudu
The following day we drove out to another concession and hunted for Kudu. We came across a nice bull standing perfectly broadside about 40 yards from us but Fred’s shot went high again.
4th Animal (wounded) – Greater Kudu
Later the same day we stalked up to a big Kudu – broadside again – and Fred’s shot was high, nicking the Kudu through the top of its back. We tracked the 57” Kudu bull for the rest of the day and most of the following morning but never got an opportunity to shoot at it again.
5th Animal (clean kill) – Blue Wildebeest
We ambushed the big Blue Wildebeest bull as he was crossing the road with the rest of the herd and he made the mistake of stopping, turning and facing us dead-on from about 125 yards away when he saw us. The 180gr Winchester Core Lokt found its mark and the Wildebeest only managed to run for about 40 yards before going down with its heart blown to pieces.
6th Animal (clean kill) – Common Duiker
The Duiker went down like a ton of bricks at the shot from Fred’s .30-06 but upon closer inspection I was surprised to see that the bullet had entered through the animal’s nose and exited through the back of its neck. I asked Fred where he had been aiming at and my concern started growing when he replied that he had aimed at the shoulder.
7th Animal (wounded but recovered later) – Greater Kudu
A nice Kudu bull showed himself to us about 50 yards ahead. I could just make out the front section (containing the vital body parts) of the animal behind a young tree that was standing between us and the bull. Just as I was busy pointing this out to Fred, the shot rang in my ears and the kudu took off. Even though I saw a slight reaction on the animal, I could not find any blood and closer inspection of the tree revealed that the 180 grainer had punched a neat hole through one of the branches of the tree. The dead gut-shot Kudu was discovered the following day.
8th Animal (clean kill) – Greater Kudu
This bull was standing on a ridge facing us dead-on and it went down immediately after being hit from about 80 yards. The bullet entered the Kudu’s chest and lodged itself in its spine so it had nowhere else to go but down.
9th Animal (missed) – Burchell’s Zebra
Fred shot at a Zebra which was standing broadside about 100 yards away from us and no reaction, no blood and no dead Zebra led me to believe that it was a clean miss.
10th Animal (missed) – Warthog
The Warthog stood still (broadside) about 90 yards up but Fred’s shot fell short.
11th Animal (missed) – Burchell’s Zebra
This Zebra, which was also standing broadside, simply ran off showing no reaction whatsoever after Fred’s shot and my concern about Fred’s shooting abilities reached the point where I was hesitant to allow him to continue hunting. It was clear that he had developed a flinch and I suggested that we go back to the shooting range the following morning and let him revert back to 125gr ammunition which (with its reduced recoil) would hopefully cure his flinch. With some persuasion on my and his Dad’s part I managed to convince Fred to use the lighter loads and off we were hunting Zebra again.
12th Animal (missed) – Burchell’s Zebra
The Zebra was not more than 60 yards ahead of us and was again standing broadside but Fred’s shot missed and I found it difficult to conceal my disappointment. At this point I called Fred’s Dad to one side and said to him that I would be forced to start firing back-up shots at animals that Fred was shooting at. This is something that I hate doing. After all, it is the client’s hunt, it is the client who is paying to hunt the animal and I have read many reports from clients complaining about trigger-happy PH’s but on the other hand, a us PH’s responsibilities go farther than facilitating a hunt for our clients or guiding them, we also have a responsibility towards the animals we’re hunting and to the landowners whose properties we hunt on.
13th Animal (wounded, killed with back-up shot) – Nyala
The Nyala was standing on a ridge, broadside, approximately 150 yards away and by the reaction on the animal it was clear that it had been gut-shot. but fortunately the bullet hit some bone which went into the vitals and killed the Nyala.
Analyzing the hunt afterwards I have come to the following conclusions:
Animals fired at standing broadside:
Animals fired at 11 (eleven)
Cleanly Killed 1 (one) 9%
Follow-up shots required 2 (two) 18%
Wounded – Recovered 1 (one) 9%
Wounded – not Recovered 1 (one) 9%
Missed – 6 (six) 56%
- Of the ten animals that had been standing broadside Fred managed to kill one (the Duiker) cleanly although the shot did not go where it was aimed at and he should consider himself lucky that it broke the Duiker’s neck.
- Follow-up shots were required on two of the animals that were killed – the Blesbok and the Nyala.
- Fred wounded two Kudu that were standing broadside of which one was gut-shot and recovered.
- Fred missed six animals in total including one Impala, one Kudu, one Warthog and three Zebra.
Animals fired at facing head-on:
Animals fired at 2 (two)
Cleanly Killed 2 (two) 100%
- Fred cleanly killed both animals that were facing him head-on
From the above statistics it is clear that Fred had a better success rate on animals that were standing face-on than those that were standing in the preferred shooting position (broadside). The fact that all the animals that he did manage to hit were shot through the guts lead me to the conclusion that he was in all probability aiming at the “mass” of the body as opposed to the vital parts (shoulder) of the animals he was shooting at. This conclusion was affirmed when Fred’s Dad later told me that Fred’s reply after being asked where he was aiming at after missing the third Zebra was that he was aiming at the middle of the animal as he “just wanted to hit it”.
The question therefore arises whether we as PH’s always know which part of the animal our clients are aiming at? We are trained to ensure that our clients know where the vital organs of the animals they are hunting are located before we go out hunting and I know that Fred studied Kevin Robertson’s “The Perfect Shot” over and over again before he came on his hunt. I also took care to explain in detail to him where he should be aiming at when he shoots but reality is that there is only one person who knows where the crosshairs are trained on when the client is taking aim and that is the person who is looking through the scope.
Following my experience with Fred, I have decided to invest in a number of life-size targets of African animals which I will be using in future after sighting in rifles in an attempt to ensure that my clients are shooting where they should be. I also recommend that – especially when you have “new” clients who are hunting for the first time, you start off hunting smaller animals and gradually work your way up to the bigger stuff. Analyze your client’s shot placement after each shot taken and ensure that his understanding of where the vitals are is the same as yours. This will prevent unnecessary expense and disappointment for your client and will be conducive to good relations between you and the landowners whose properties you hunt on.[/]