After years, actually decades, spent dreaming of Africa, I’ve finally booked a trip. Since then, I’ve been actively preparing for my South African dream hunt for gemsbok, kudu, wildebeest, and other African antelope collectively referred to as plains game. I’ve chosen my 30-06 rifle to accompany me on this adventure.
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Anticipated Hunting Conditions and Preparation
Reference picture, from hornady.com
The hunt is scheduled during American summer — towards the end of July. I’ll be hunting at about 3,300 feet elevation. The weather should be cool and dry with lows in the 30’s or 40’s and highs in the 60’s, reminiscent of typical central Washington October hunting conditions. I’ll be hunting in the same clothing I wear on mule deer hunts near my home.
Just as some assume a hunt in Africa has to be unbearably hot, many assume meat is wasted on African hunts. This is not the case. I’ll have the opportunity to enjoy the meat I harvested in the evenings while the rest of the animal goes to locals. Hunting is integral to the economy and funds conservation.
The plains game animals I’ll be hunting are sturdy — similar to elk in size and strength. They’re herd animals, which can make stalking difficult. With so many eyes, ears and noses on the alert, getting close unnoticed is part luck and part art.
Shots shouldn’t be particularly long, likely not exceeding 300 yards. What is particularly interesting is that most of my shots are likely to be from the standing position with the assistance of shooting sticks for stability. Shots from the prone and sitting positions are often too low due to grass and brush. I’ve been regularly practicing shooting from standing and sitting, with and without my Bog Pod shooting tripod.
Rather than stay in one place, I’m anticipating a lot of stalking on foot. Comfortable, broken-in hiking boots will be important as well many conditioning hikes before the trip.
Why the 30-06?
One of the myths of African Plains Game hunts is that a powerful magnum rifle is required. The truth is, good bullet in the vital area from any reasonable big game cartridge will do. There’s nothing wrong with shooting a 300 Remington Ultra Mag if that’s your choice, but it’s not necessary. Hunters have successfully used many different hunting cartridges in Africa suitable for deer and elk in the U.S.
Over the years, I’ve been told that the 30-06 is too old, too boring, too weak, too powerful, kicks too much, not accurate, etc. Yet year after year hunters keep taking game with it. The truth is, the 30-06 is a terrific general purpose hunting cartridge and has a long history of use in Africa as well as in North America and around the world. In fact, my professional guide was pleased with my choice of the 30-06 for a plains game hunt.
Here’s a video from a story we published on the subject:
And some specs for my Remington 700 CDL 30-06:
My rifle is well proven — a Remington 700 CDL with a factory 24” sporter barrel. It typically shoots ¾” to 1” groups at 100 yards with my handloaded hunting ammo I’ve hunted with it in Washington, Wyoming and Alaska for a variety of big game animals including grizzly, elk, black bear, mule deer and pronghorn antelope. Just last fall I used it to take a mule deer at 350 yards. This is one of several big game animals it’s dropped at 300+ yards. I’m comfortable and confident with it, which is critical in any shooting scenario. The rifle has had a few modifications/improvements over the years including pillar bedding, adding a free floating barrel, and replacing the factory trigger with a Timney. I’ve mounted a 6x Leupold on sturdy bases, and Gavin recently threaded the barrel so we could install an Omega 300 from SilencerCo.
The barrel threading was at the request of my guide (called Professional Hunter in Africa), Mike Birch, who mentioned that he had a suppressor I could hunt with in South Africa. I also have a Montana sling on it, which I use to stabilize the rifle in various shooting positions.
Why the Hornady CX?
Mike Birch also asked me to use “premium bullets” and specifically mentioned monolithic bullets such as the Barnes TTSX, Nosler E-Tip, or the Hornady CX. The CX recently replaced Hornady’s original monolithic bullet, the GMX.
I was impressed with the results we’d seen in our recent test of the new CX bullets fired from a 7mm Remington Magnum — penetration, expansion and weight retention were all exemplary.
The larger antelope I’ll be hunting are roughly the size of elk. In Africa, if an animal is wounded and escapes, the hunter is still charged for that animal. Shot angles are unlikely to be perfectly broadside, and the shot opportunity might be fleeting. Mike wanted to ensure I was using a bullet which would break major bones and penetrate deeply. That’s exactly what the CX is designed to do.
One thing to remember about the Hornady CX is it’s a tough copper-zinc alloy and doesn’t act the same as a typical lead core jacketed bullet. It’s important to start load workup low with these bullets and watch carefully for pressure signs as the charge weight is increased. It may not be possible to safely reach as high a velocity with the CX as can be achieved with conventional lead-core jacketed bullets.
H4350 is temperature insensitive and capable of great accuracy and velocity with the 165 grain bullet from my 30-06. It has been my standard with 165 grain bullets for quite a few years now.
H4350 is an extruded propellant in our Extreme series that has been one of our most popular powders with shooters for decades. During that time, Hodgdon has modernized H4350 by shortening the grains for improved metering and making it insensitive to hot and cold temperatures.
H4350 is ideal in the WSM family of calibers (270, 7mm, 30, 325) and is also the standard in such cartridges as the 243 Winchester, 6mm Remington, 270 Winchester, 338 Winchester Magnum and many more. For magnums with light- to moderate-weight bullets, it can’t be beat!
Available in 1 lb. and 8 lb. containers.
Normally I load the 30-06 with H4350 and it has worked out so very well for me with 165, 180 and 200 grain bullets.
Starting with fresh brass, I resized all of it to ensure that the case mouths were perfectly round, then primed them with the CCI 200 large rifle primer on Hornady’s hand priming tool. I’ve found this to be utterly dependable and quite consistent. The ammunition for the hunt is being built on once fired brass.
Hornady recommends a 1-10” barrel with a minimum velocity of 2,000 fps for optimal expansion. This is right in line with what is typical for a 30-06.
Range Results H4350
Long ago I came to the conclusion that H4350 was nearly magic in the 30-06 cartridge, often producing good velocity, tight extreme spread and standard deviation numbers and good accuracy. This is another one of those loads. I used Hornady’s information for their previous GMX bullet and worked up from there.
Using 55.4 grains of H4350 I saw an average of 2863 fps muzzle velocity. The ES was 15 fps and the SD was a mere 5 fps!
100 yard groups hovered around .75” to 1.25” depending on how well I was shooting. That’s all I ask of a factory barreled sporter-weight hunting rifle and is plenty good enough to take game.
I did test some other powder and bullet combinations, but I was most happy with this one.
Hornady’s Ballistic Calculator
As a hunter, this calculator shows me that the trajectory is flat enough to make hits out beyond 300 yards “holding on hair.” It also reassures me that I have ample velocity to ensure bullet expansion on game at 300, and should get some expansion at 400 yards as well.
My 30-06 and ammunition appear to be ready for the South African hunt, but time will tell. Watch for our after the hunt report!
Get the Gear!
I’ve known my professional hunting guide, Mike Birch, for years. We met here in Washington and have shot together and eaten together. He’s a Craig Boddington Endorsed Outfitter with great knowledge and skills. To arrange a hunt with Mike visit his website.
All of the load components are usually available at MidSouth Shooters Supply, but with the current component shortages, some items may be out of stock.
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