American in Africa: Stateside Gear in the Dark Continent
April 03, 2018
Game & Fish Magazines Editor in Chief John Geiger took American gear and strategies on a big-game hunt last year to Namibia, Africa, with Vista Outdoor and Jamy Traut Hunting Safaris. What he learned can also be applied in the States.
Africa is far. It can be expensive to hunt. It's a different world. No surprises there. But one thing that does often surprise American hunters: On a plains-game hunt, the gear is pretty much the same as we use here in the USA.
A plains-game hunt is the typical entry into the rich African hunting tradition. The hooved-game animals reflect our common North American species.
The springbok is akin in size and behavior to our pronghorn antelope. The impala is a lot like our whitetail with its thin skin and weights in the 100- to 300-pound range. The greater kudu is like our elk. The huge eland, the world's largest antelope, could be compared to our moose.
That 6.5 Creedmoor you use on your Western antelope hunt is perfect for a springbok. And your .30-06 Springfield can kill most any plains game on the continent. With a 3,000-plus-pound spiral-horned eland, you'll tap into a .300 Win Mag or .338 Federal.
American ammo manufacturers, from Federal Premium to Hornady, Nosler and Winchester, among them, create excellent controlled-expansion bullets made for these thin-skinned plains species.
Africa Video: Perfect Bullet Performance
We tested out Federal Premium's new TLR cartridge on springbok, zebra-like red hartebeest and hulking blue wildebeest. This bullet is made to expand at closer ranges, like when I got to within 80 yards of a wildebeest, and at longer distance as well. The TLR is made for American game, but it is just right for these animals half a world away.
In addition to calibers, several other American hunting tools produced double-takes from African professional hunters.
Africa Video: Geiger Downs Kudu
Your bolt-action in your favorite deer caliber is more than adequate for most African plains-game species. We tested out two Savages: a Model 16 in 6.5 Creedmoor and a Model 114 in .30-06. The Creedmoor was perfect for springbok, and the .30-06 was just right on most others. I did borrow a friend's .300 Win Mag for a kudu and eland. While many things are different and sometimes strange in Africa, I really enjoyed having that M114 American Classic in my hands. It felt like home.
Often you see the classic long shooting sticks professional hunters, or PHs, carry and set up for hunters when game is in range. But I asked to use Primos' Trigger Sticks from home. The PHs loved them. I left a tri-pod set behind, and they now use them on their hunts!
I have been using a CamelBak HAWG (Holds A Lot of Water and Gear) pack lately, just because there is nothing more annoying and disruptive than the crunch of a plastic water bottle during a stalk. I was in Namibia in May, which is late fall there, but it is a high desert and dry. The hydration pack was perfect for long stalks away from the Land Cruiser.
I used 8x42 Bushnell Engage binos. Larger are better for picking out horn size from a distance, but you will do a fair amount of stalking, and the lighter 8X are very compact. The Engage have good edge-to-edge clarity and are affordable.
Africa Video: Q&A with Vista Outdoor's Ryan Bronson