This article calls for a moment of reflection for all hunters. As many of you know, for the past 4 years I've taken ALUMNI STUDENTS to South Africa for a culling hunt on African Plains Game. This is truly a rare opportunity for many students who like to hunt and have a desire to perfect their hunting skills. Hunt packages vary, but the average number of animals students shoot run between 15-25 critters a week. These include: wildebeest, kudu, gemsbuck, eland, spring buck, hartebeest, blesbuck, impala and warthog. Hunt camp handles 6-8 students and most everyone stays for two weeks, with many shooting 30-50 animals during that time.

If you were to hunt in North America, taking that many animals my indeed take you half a lifetime, assuming you were lucky enough to draw tags. As an example, I've lived in Oregon almost 40 years and have drawn 2 antelope tags. Wow, if I continue living a healthy lifestyle, I MIGHT draw another tag before being called to the afterlife. Applying for additional tags in other states is an option. I've been fortunate to draw Montana deer tags, 22 in roughly 24 years if memory serves me. In Africa, one can gain that much experience in a week or two. That includes stalking, shooting, field positions, tracking skills and an understanding of animal behavior.

Over the last 4 years our group has harvested roughly 800 animals and the learning never stops. The educational process includes, bullet selection, cartridge choice, range limitations, wind variations, field positions. Given this amount of experience, it is fair to say I have drawn some rather firm conclusions as to limitations when hunting African Plains Game. Note: IMHO these same limitations should apply to North American game as well.

While we all enjoy making "Dead Right There" shots at long range. TV and YOUTUBE footage shows some extreme shots on animals from 800-1500 yards under field conditions. While there are some hunters/shooters who can perform such tasks with a high degree of consistency, I've yet to see anyone who can do it 100% of the time, AND THIS IS "WHEN THINGS GO BAD"!

There is no magic formula for caliber selection that is going to GUARANTEE results 100% of the time. Our experience shows that 7-08s, 308s, 6.5 Creedmoors, 280s and 30-06s kill just as well as 300 Mags, 28 Noslers and Ultra Mag cartridges. These cartridge comparisons are based on shooting animals to 650 yards and sometimes as far as 875 yards.


1) Bullet Selection/Performance. This is more important than cartridge choice. A Magnum round using a poor bullet choice is not as effective as a less potent (7-08, 308 and 6.5 Creedmoor) using a Nosler Accu-bond. Penetration, expansion and shot placement are your keys to success. Upon examining vital organs (autopsy), it is nearly impossible to see the damage difference between standard calibers and Magnum-based cartridges. The importance of pass-through and a good blood trail cannot be stressed enough.


Why I recommend a bonded-core bullet like Nosler Accu-bonds. Helen Keller could have followed this blood trail. This blood trail went for approx. 75-100 yards

2) Shot Angle. In my seminars around the world, I'm convinced that rifle hunters should hunt like bow hunters with regards to shot angles on animals. Heart and lung shots are the areas we need to target, and if those vitals are hidden or difficult to hit, we should wait for the opportunity or pass on the shot. Anytime the shot angle is quartering to, or away from you, we increase the probability of wounding the animal by 25%. Quartering shots are often deflected by ribs; hits between the shoulder and body cavity create a 3-legged animal, and the oops, paunch shot!

3) Range Estimation Errors. Once we get on the back side of the trajectory curve, we increase the risk of wounding the animal. Yes, every cartridge has a back side to its trajectory curve, some just a bit farther out. When ranges start to exceed 500 yards, missing the exact range by as little as 20-25 yards can result in wounded animals. If your hold is a bit low, or you jump on the trigger your POI can vary dramatically. On flat ground I recommend lasering the animal several times. On hillsides, range at the animal's feet to get a more accurate/consistent range. If for some reason your laser is "FLAT-LINING," get closer!

4) Wind Hiccups. Seldom do we see windless days in the field. More often than not, there is wind to consider. When the wind is up (8-15MPH), how accurately can you gauge the conditions? Hills, valleys, flats all bring about their own variables in determining a wind correction. I can call wind in the field as well as anybody, and I still get bit from time to time when I exceed common sense. Often the terrain is such that you cannot determine wind speed/direction beyond the shooter's location. To visualize the difficulty, let's assume a kill zone of 10 inches on our game animal. This equates to a 5 inch radius with a PERFECT dead-center hold. Use your ballistic software and convert the MOA to inches with a 10 MPH wind. Determine the additional drift caused my missing the wind by 2 MPH, then change the direction by 30 degrees. You'll see how easy it is throw a shot outside our 10 inch circle.


Great shot taking out the pump on this mule deer. Range 358 yards. Q/ Was it a 270 WSM using a Barnes 130gr. TTSX or 338 Win. Mag using 210 Partitions?

5) My Gun is SUPER ACCURATE! Yes, from the bench it is, but we are not shooting from a bench in the field. If you are, I want the name of the guide who packs your bench for you. Your accuracy is rated on what you can do from FIELD POSITIONS, not from the bench. What is your group size from sitting, kneeling, off sticks, rocks, bi-pods, packs, etc. at 400-600 yards.

6) One-Step Blunders. This applies more to African herd animals than most of our North American animals. However, mule deer, antelope, caribou and elk can ALL take a step as the shot breaks. We've experienced this many times in Africa. By the time the herd stops and the hunter lines up on the 22nd animal from the left, the lead animal may decide it's time to "GO" and the herd starts to walk or run as the shot breaks. That perfect heart/lung shot now becomes a gut or brisket shot and the chase is on. The ground we hunt is rather open and in many cases the animals can remain in sight for hundreds of yards, some times miles, allowing tracking and follow-up shots. Think of a heavily timbered hillside and the uncertainty of where the animal was standing after you forded the creek and climbed up 600 feet to the opposing hillside. Things get pretty difficult under those conditions.

7) Marking the Location. In the heat of battle with adreneline levels at record highs, it's easy to fail to note the EXACT location where the animal was when shot. Yep, he was standing next to that green tree with the dead limb. You walk downhill over and around rocks, creek beds, ravines and other obstacles to that green tree and, hmmmm, ALL the trees are green and many of them have dead limbs. You look back to the hillside you were on and can't really determine EXACTLY where you were when you shot. Now what??

Well, lots of failures are now working against you. Finding the animal has now taken a turn for the worse. The sun is going down and coyotes can be heard howling in the distance. For future use, here are a few suggestions to keep in mind. If hunting with a partner, take a few deep breaths and calm down. Both of you note the tree, rock, or stump where the animal was standing. Leave your partner behind and head toward the site. You'll probably notice that you have underestimated walking 600 yards and come up short of the desired point. Radio communication and/or hand signals can be exchanged to get you to the spot. Look for blood, hair, or tracks to be certain you have found the spot. Once you've find blood, mark the spot with your hat, nature paper, scarf, etc. Only then have your partner join you.

If hunting solo, note the exact range to the animal, mark your shot location with High-Viz ribbon or nature paper. Hike to the supposed spot and laser back to your ribbon/nature paper. Are you short, or have you gone too far? Once you've confirmed the yardage, look for that green tree with the dead limb.


Devastating lung destruction killed this animal. Range 458 yards. Q/ was this done by a 300 RUM using 180 gr. NABs, or a 6.5 Creedmoor?

Realistic Limitations

(Darrell's 5 Tips for Success)

Given the stats of the last 4 years and adding to that my 40 years of hunting experience around the world, I feel the following recommendations will provide respect for the animals we hunt and minimize any sorrow experienced from wounding and losing an animal in the field.

1) Know your LIMITATIONS and do not allow your ego or peers to convince you to take the shot.

2) Use NOSLER Accu-bonds, or a good bonded bullet with a proven track record.

3) Avoid shots that deviate considerably from broadside unless the animal has been hit and you need to get MORE LEAD into him.

4) If winds exceed 10 mph on shots over 400 yards, GET CLOSER.

5) No matter how GOOD you think you are, limit shots to 650 yards under good conditions. If it's windy, you're breathing hard, have buck fever, or can't get steady, GET CLOSER!

Following these guidelines will put a lot of trophies on the wall, meat in the freezer, and MORE IMPORTANTLY, allow you to sleep well at night!

Heart shot is with a 6mm XC and a 107 SMK
Lung shot picture 6.5 Creedmoor 140 Nosler Accu-bond