A Long Range African Safari
Guest post by Christophe Beau of Grand Safari. Mr. Beau was the Professional Hunter for Bob and Christine Beck of Extreme Outer Limits for their African Safari. Below is his journal on their long-range hunting experience. Watch the Becks Mondays at 7:30 am, Tuesdays at 12:30 pm and Thursdays at 10 pm ET.
May 2011: Bob and Christine (Chris) Beck land in East London. They are traveling with Seth Johnson, cameraman and producer and Duane Watlington, of Watlington Outdoors, our US booking agent. Bob is one of the best long range hunting experts in the US, most probably one of the very best in the world. What makes Bob unique is his hunting experience and skills combined with his great interest and knowledge on long range shooting. Chris is currently holding the longest one kill shot ever recorded for US TV on a black bear taken at 1025 yards on Extreme Outer Limits TV show (E.O.L.)
On the road between East London airport (Eastern Cape province in South Africa) and our concession in the Stormsberg Mountain range, Bob tells me a bit more about his background. He has always been a hunter and has developed an interest in long range shooting over the years. He has tried most of the best long-range guns available on the market, and the way he explains the difference from one barrel to the next tells me that the man knows what he is talking about. He is currently developing a full range of long distance guns with McMillan. The Becks will soon offer what most of us have been dreaming about for moons and moons, guns that would be pinpoint accurate in most circumstances. Bob’s guns for our safari are fitted with NightForce optics and Berger Bullets. One must understand that pinching a hole at 500 or 1,000 yards in a piece of cardboard is one thing, killing a beast on an ethical manner is a different game alltogether. The military sniper technology is a great base to work from, and Berger provided Bob with bullets that could fly well and kill at very long ranges. They are designed to penetrate about six inches and explode. Any conventional bullets offering a controlled expansion on impact won’t fly with same accuracy at those ranges.
I started to guide on a professional basis in 1994 and came across most of the hunter style and methods commonly used. Rifle, black powder, archery, handgun and what I thought were long distance shots (300 to 400 yards). Bob’s equipment is different, optics are based on minute of angles and not yards, barometric pressure and wind speed and constancy become crucial … this is NEW to me and I am very interested to discover this new world.
Bob wishes to sight in his McMillan E.O.L. series .300 Remington Ultra Magnum. He asked to have a target at over 600 yards … yeah, whatever floats his boat. He squeezes the trigger twice, the two holes at less than an inch apart and at about four inches from the bull eye! I can’t believe it! But Bob is not happy (!) and wants to understand why the two holes are not in the middle of that piece of paper. Something is not right he says while pulling a little device marked “Kestrel” to check wind speed and atmospheric pressure. Surprisingly to him, it is a lot different than in the US for the same altitude, scope will have to be reset, this is done in about 10 seconds … and? That’s it ? Ready for action? Answer is yes; we’re good to go he said. Well, well …
Wind has dropped and we should get some action going today. We’ve been driving for about 30 minutes when Bob spots a large herd of Red Hartebeest on the flank of a hill. The herd is at more than 800 yards away from us and feel very safe. Chris grabs the .300 Ultra Mag, Bob is behind a camera and Seth behind the other. I have my eye glued behind the latest Leica HD spotting scope, nice … I see seven bulls walking to the left of the big herd, Chris is on them and we agree on the biggest of all. We are all ready, cameras are rolling and … we wait, and wait, and wait some more to get the perfect opportunity. It will take over 45 minutes before that big bull gives us a shot. Chris squeezes the trigger and to my surprise, I can see the vapor trail in the spotting scope … awesome … even better when the big bull drops in his tracks … 674 yards away!!
Bob explain to me that what I saw in the Leica is the result of the temperature difference between the bullet and the ambient air. I get the impression to be right in the middle of a science fiction movie … but it works!
Today, we are back in the same area trying to spot a kudu we saw from the day before. It could take a bit of time and we all sit behind our binoculars scanning the hills. A few cows come out of the bush below us. We are in the rutting season and for sure a big boy should be close by. It is now starting to rain (we are in winter at the driest time of the year!) and finally, Bob spots the bull. We are using our jackets to protect the cameras and are getting soaking wet. Bob will NOT give up, cameras are rolling, the bull is behind a cow at about 800 yards. Remember we are on a steep side of a hill, in the rain, looking at kudus 800 yards away … and Bob is getting ready to take a shot. I am glad to have my little Domino with us, she is my well-experienced Jack Russell cross Fox Terrier blood sport dog and we might need her help. I trust Bob’s judgment of pulling an ethical shot here as he showed me earlier that he knows exactly what he is talking about. Bang! The kudu drops right there and then, I cannot believe it, the shot was 737 yards away … unreal! Let me tell you that it takes more than a good gun to achieve that in those conditions.
I realize then that at Bob’s level of skills are an art where everything has to be taken in consideration. One has to estimate what the wind is like at 1,000 yards; this is all about calculation, interpretation, anticipation … Bob has years of practice behind him and thousands of shots at long range in field conditions. He has been using the best equipment money can buy for years and is now developing his own together with McMillan, Nightforce and Berger. What amazes me is the capacity Bob has to make it look easy to novice long-range hunters, putting all his personal knowledge and this high tech equipment to novice’s disposal.
For some, shooting that far could possibly take some hunting pleasure away, for others, this is a step further. What ever it is, one thing is for sure, I’m convinced it can be done on a very ethical and enjoyable way.
During this first Long Range African Safari ever filmed for US TV, most of the trophies were taken between 700 and 800 yards. Chris took a blue wildebeest at 925 yards and Bob a magnificent Gemsbok at 980 yards. Chris and Bob used two McMillan E.O.L series guns, both fitted with NightForce optics using especially developed bullets from Berger. Calibers were a .300 Remington Ultra Mag and a .30 – 378 Weatherby Magnum.
With the supervision of Bob and Chris Beck, Grand Safari is planning an Extreme Outer Limits course in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa in 2012. This will allow participant to experience long range hunting with top class guns with top class experts. To learn more about this course, visit http://www.extremeouterlimitstv.com/ and http://watlingtonoutdoors.com
See you out there!