From our August “Ask The Experts” column. Make sure you go to our “Ask the Experts” page for their full bios and more!
Question: I’m planning a South African safari next year for a plains game hunt, and I can’t make up my mind whether I should purchase a new rifle, or use my bolt-action .30-06 deer rifle. I’ve got kudu, impala, zebra and wildebeest on my wish list to hunt, but may take a few others if the opportunity presents itself. Would a rifle like this be my best choice, or should I consider purchasing a new rifle for the trip? And if so, what caliber should I consider? —Vernon T., New Brunswick, New Jersey
Tom Tabor Answers: A .30-06 is a very versatile cartridge and fully capable of doing a good job on those species you mentioned, as well as most all of the plains game in South Africa. If you are comfortable shooting this rifle, then by all means take it along. You didn’t mention whether you are comfortable shooting at longer range, but depending upon the area sometimes you might be facing a shot out to 200- or 300-yards. I’ve always found the zebra to be one of the most difficult animals to approach, and that usually translates into fairly long range shooting. Because of this, I’d recommend practicing with your ’06 at varying ranges and particularly using a set of shooting sticks. Shooting sticks are commonly used on safari, and it might take you a little while to get accustomed to them.
I frequently take two rifles for my own plains game hunting. More often than not, that includes one of my .300 Win. mags for the larger species and a light rifle for the small game such as steenbok, duikers, etc. In this case, something in the neighborhood of a .243, or even one of the centerfire .22s would be my first choice. You didn’t mention a desire to go after any of the smaller antelope, but even if you did and decided to only take your .30-06, a well-placed round from it certainly would work in a pinch. There is a lot to be said for hunting with a rifle that you are thoroughly accustomed to.