“Tracks! Buffalo just came through here. Are you loaded? Put your Ruger’s safety to the second stage where you can quickly flick it to fire.” Dave Kenesek suggested then questioned, “Do you have more rounds handy if you need to quickly reload? If you need to, open the action and if you’ve got a live round in the barrel, grab it as it comes out of the chamber and push it down into the magazine. Then reach down to your cartridge belt, grab a round and feed it into the magazine, do so without looking down. If you drop a round, do not pick it up. Keep looking for the buffalo! If we find a big mature bull and you shoot, keep shooting until he’s down.” I nodded, “OK, let’s go!”
Brush lined the narrow path. If we did see a buffalo it would be close, very close!
“To the left, bull!” But then immediately, “Don’t shoot, soft-boss bull!”
We continued on, my rifle at half port, thumb on safety, finger on trigger guard. “To the right, big bull! Take him!” Immediately I shouldered the .375 Ruger loaded with Hornady’s 300 grain DGX. Bringing rifle to shoulder I pushed the safety to fire. In less than a heart beat the Ruger was properly aligned on the forehead of the deeply drooped, hard-bossed bull. I pulled the trigger, then immediately bolted in a fresh round! “Excellent shot! He’s down! Reload!” I did so without taking my eyes off of where I had last seen the buffalo! Then there was the buffalo again less than five yards away! “Shoot! Shoot!”
Automatically without thinking about it, I placed the crosshairs of my Trijicon variable between and just above the buffalo’s eyes then gently pulled the trigger. I bolted in a fresh round, by opening the bolt, bringing it all the way back on my Ruger, being careful not to “short-stroke” the bolt to cause a jam, then closed the bolt, with my trigger finger coming to rest on the trigger, put the crosshairs in nearly the exact spot as my previous shot and pulled the trigger. Then I bolted in another round, as I heard “He’s down!” Without really thinking about it, I reloaded never taking my eyes off of the buffalo
“What did you think of your buffalo shooting?” asked Dave Knesek instructor with the FTW/S.A.A.M. (Sportsman All Weather All Terrain Marksmanship) Dangerous Game Hunter’s Training. Before I could answer, “Let’s check out where you hit the targets.” I am proud to say all my shots were well within the “kill zones”.
“Are you loaded up? Next up are elephants, and then we’ll move back to the leopard and lion blind.”
I have been fortunate to have hunted Africa numerous times including for elephant, Cape buffalo in several countries, lion and hippo as well as a wide variety of plains game. But there is always room to learn more! One of the primary reasons for having to again come to the FTW Ranch for S.A.A.M. training was to help me prepare for an upcoming leopard hunt in Namibia with Dzombo Safaris. My primary choice in firearms for the lifetime awaited hunt for leopards is my Ruger Number 1 (single-shot) chambered in .275 Rigby, currently wearing a low power variable, dangerous game Vanguard scope and shooting Hornady’s 140-grain Soft Point loads. The .275 Rigby is the exact same round as the 7x57 and 7mm Mauser, simply the British’s name for it.
The legendary elephant hunter, W.D.M. “Karamojo” Bell used his .275 Rigby to take an unbelievable number of elephants with what some would consider a diminutive round for such large game. Bell has long fascinated me with his exploits. Thankfully on a previous safari to Uganda I got to hunt Nile buffalo in the same regions where Bell hunted. Like the old elephant hunter, I have long been a fan of the 7x57 or .275 Rigby! I have also long been a fan or single-shot rifles and dearly love the Ruger Number 1’s.
Most all leopard hunts these days are baited hunts. Namibia, where I will be hunting, no longer allows hunts with hounds or hunting after dark with a light, only daylight hunts!
A few minutes later, Dave and I were seated in a leopard blind waiting for the appearance of a leopard, which in real life can take many days, requiring the hunter to be both physically and especially mentally prepared for long sometimes boring waits!
With the Number 1 positioned toward and just above the bait, we continued the wait. Then by pre-agreed sign Dave pointed toward my safety, indicating to as quietly as possible, move the safety to fire and get set up behind the rifle. The leopard appears, but I wait for the PH to make certain the leopard is a male and he is indeed a shooter. I have the crosshairs planted solidly on the leopard’s chest, waiting for the three squeezes on my arm signaling me to shoot to shoot. The signal doesn’t come, then through the peripheral vision of my Vanguard scope I see movement to the right of the leopard…a second leopard! I move the rifle ever so cautiously to the leopard on the right. I see Dave’s hand come into vision on my right holding up two fingers. He points to the finger on the right, indicating to take the leopard on the right. I lock crosshairs on target, then feel Dave squeeze my arm three times. A deep breath, let out all the air in my lungs, then gently I pulled the trigger. At the shot, while I reloaded, I heard Dave say, “Good shot! He’s down!”
“OK, Blake,” said Dave addressing Blake Barnett, my co-host for our “DSC’s Trailing the Hunter’s Moon”, “Load four rounds and let’s go see if we can find a buffalo for you to shoot.” Blake loaded four Hornady DGX into his .375 Ruger FTW/SAAM Hunter. A few minutes later I heard him fire his first shot on the “in the jess range”. About fifteen minutes later he returned to the Jeep where I waited with the others in our class. He was smiling broadly!
“Whysoon, I’m ready for Zambia and Cape buffalo!” said Blake referring to his upcoming, later this summer Africa safari. Blake has previously taken elephant, Cape buffalo, hippo, lion and leopard with his Ruger rifles shooting Hornady ammo and like me dearly loves hunting buffalo!
Later that afternoon we moved to the FTW’s “lodge range” to train on moving targets, as well as full size Cape buffalo targets and elephant target, both stationary and charging! Fabulous training, and also tremendous fun!
That evening over a meal rivaling the finest found in the world’s best restaurants, although a lot more comfortable, we discussed our day’s shooting, a “de-briefing” if you will. After the meal we returned to the classroom where our training had started the first morning before discussing principals of marksmanship, rifles, scopes, ammo and ballistics, to learn what the morrow would bring.
The FTW Ranch (www.ftwsaam.com) located in the Texas Hill Country about 60 miles north of Uvalde is in excess of 12,000 acres. And it is home to twelve and more different ranges with many different shooting scenarios including long ranges out to 1,800 yards, and longer. The FTW has several training options when it comes to shooting training. Some of the hunter training includes long range shooting. But, one of the things I love of about the FTW is the instructors do not encourage “long range hunting”. The instructors, which are former military marksman and military marksman instructors, are also hunters who have hunted throughout the world. One of the sayings you will see throughout the headquarters including in the comfortable cabins is “It’s the hunter’s job to kill the animal on the first shot!”
According to our instructor, “We strive to teach you how to shoot accurately at long range, so when you stalk in close to your quarry, you’ll feel comfortable at making that shot count!” He continued, “We also try to make our hunting situations in the training as real as possible!” Having hunted on five continents including a considerable amount in North America and Africa I can assure you he was correct.
“Tomorrow we will be doing…….”