“Are you loaded? Tracks! Buffalo just came through here recently. Push your Ruger’s safety to the second stage where you can quickly flick it to fire.” Suggested Dave Kenesek then questioned, “Do you have more rounds handy if you need to quickly reload?” I nodded positively and pointed to my cartridge belt. He continued, “If you need to add rounds, open the action. Without looking down, 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. If you drop a round, leave it. 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!
“Bull to the left!” But then immediately, “Don’t shoot, soft-boss bull!”
We continued on, my rifle at half port, thumb on safety, finger just above and alongside the trigger. “To the right, big bull! Take him!” Instantly I shouldered my .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!”
Without thinking about my action, 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. As I bolted in another round I heard “He’s down!” Without thinking of doing so I reloaded, never taking my eyes off of the buffalo!
Talk about being high on pure adrenaline and excitement! I took a deep breath and stepped back.
“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 I felt pretty good about my shooting, Dave said, “Let’s check where you hit the targets.” I am proud to say all my shots were within the “kill zones”.
“Next up are elephants. Then we’ll move on to the leopard and lion blind. If you’re loaded, let’s go!”
I have been fortunate to have hunted Africa numerous times for elephant in Namibia, Cape buffalo in several countries, lion, and hippo as well as a wide variety of plains game from northwestern Africa to the Eastern Cape. But, there is always room and reason to learn more!
One of the primary reasons for again going to the FTW Ranch for S.A.A.M. 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 were my Ruger Number 1 (single-shot) chambered in .275 Rigby, wearing a low power variable scope and shooting Hornady’s 140-grain Soft Point loads. The .275 Rigby is the exact same round as the 7×57 and 7mm Mauser, simply the British’s name for it. My second rifle was a Ruger M77 FTW/SAAM in .300 Win Mag wearing a Trijicon variable and shooting Hornady’s 200-grain ELD-X bullet in their Precision Hunter.
The legendary elephant hunter, W.D.M. “Karamojo” Bell used his .275 Rigby which some would consider a diminutive round for dangerous game, especially elephant. I have long been intrigued by Bell and his many exploits. On a previous safari to Uganda I got to hunt Nile buffalo in the same regions where Bell hunted years ago for huge-tusked elephants. Like the old elephant hunter, I have long been a fan of the 7×57 or .275 Rigby! I have also long been a fan or single-shot rifles and dearly love the Ruger Number 1’s.
However, I also wanted to make certain I was proficient with my .300 Win Mag Ruger, just in case!
Most all leopard hunts involve hunting over bait. Namibia, where I would be hunting, no longer allows hunts with hounds as they once did!
Back on the FTW, Dave and I were seated in a blind waiting for the appearance of a leopard. In real life such waits can take many days, requiring the hunter to be physically and especially mentally prepared for long sometimes boring waits!
With the Number 1 positioned toward and just above the bait, we waited. Then by pre-agreed sign Dave pointed toward my safety, indicating to as quietly as possible, push the safety to fire and get behind the rifle, prepared to shoot. The leopard appeared, but I waited for the PH to make certain the leopard was a male and indeed a shooter, crosshairs planted solidly on the leopard’s chest. I waited for the three squeezes on my arm signaling me to shoot.
The signal doesn’t come, then I see movement to the right of the leopard…a second leopard! I moved my rifle ever so cautiously to the leopard on the right. Dave’s hand came into vision on my right. He was holding up two fingers. He pointed to the finger on the right, indicating to take the leopard on the right. I lock crosshairs on target, then felt Dave squeeze my arm three times. I took a deep breath, let out all the air in my lungs, then gently pulled the trigger. At the shot I heard Dave say, “Good shot! He’s down!” I reloaded and waited.
Moments later I heard, “OK, Blake,” as Dave addressed Blake Barnett, my “DSC’s Trailing the Hunter’s Moon” co-host. “Load four rounds and let’s go see if we can find a buffalo for you.” Blake loaded four Hornady 300-grain DGX rounds into his .375 Ruger FTW/SAAM Hunter. He and Dave disappeared into the jess. A couple of minutes later I heard him fire his first shot. About ten 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!” spoke 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 tremendous fun!
Over an evening meal rivaling the finest found in some of the world’s best restaurants, although a lot more comfortable, we discussed our day’s shooting, a “de-briefing” if you will. A bit later that evening we returned to the classroom where our training had started the first morning discussing principals of marksmanship, rifles, scopes, ammo and ballistics, but now to learn what the morrow would bring.
The FTW Ranch is located in the Texas Hill Country about 60 miles north of Uvalde. The ranch proper is in excess of 12,000 acres and is home to twelve and more different ranges including many different shooting scenarios as well as ranges out to 1,800 yards and beyond.
There are several S.A.A.M. options when it comes to shooting training. Some includes long range shooting. But..one of the things I love of about the FTW their instructors is they do not encourage “long range hunting”.
S.A.A.M.’s instructors, most of which are former military marksman instructors, are also hunters with great hunting experience 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!” I could not agree more!
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 try to make our hunting situations in our 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…….”
Title Pic: Whether hunting hippo in Africa, such as what Blake Barnett has been doing, or hunting whitetails in your backyard, accurately shooting your firearm is of utmost importance and learning how, the FTW Ranch and their S.A.A.M. is the place to do so!