Preparing for your African safari
By John McAdams

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It's now spring and the peak time for hunting in Africa is only a couple of months away. For those fortunate enough to have the opportunity to make the trip this summer, now is the time to ensure you are doing everything you can to make the most out of a potentially once-in-a-lifetime journey. Below are a few tips that will help you along the way.

INDUSTRY PULSE

Which is the most important tip for African safaris?
  • 1. Fitness
  • 2. Bullets
  • 3. Marksmanship

Fitness

This is potentially the most important single aspect of an African safari — and probably one of the most overlooked. The last thing you want is to pay thousands of dollars for a top-notch safari and not be physically able to fully enjoy it. You don't want to be huffing and puffing so much at the end of a stalk that you can't steady your rifle enough to take an accurate shot.

While the required fitness level does vary depending on the kind of hunt and the area you are hunting in, proper preparation is extremely important. For a plains game hunt, walking 2-3 miles a day three days a week will set you up nicely for success. However, if you are planning on hunting buffalo, or especially elephant, the number of miles you walk during each day during the hunt goes up dramatically (potentially 10-plus miles a day for elephant). In such a case, 4-5 miles a day four days a week with a few 10-12-mile hikes (preferably carrying a light load and wearing your hunting boots) will more than sufficiently prepare you physically for the hunt.

Bullets

Ammunition that will work great on a 150-pound white-tailed deer in the United States is not necessarily the best thing to use on a 600-700-pound Kudu. While you certainly want a bullet that will expand, you do not want one that will expand so rapidly that it will disintegrate and not penetrate deep enough to reach the vitals of the animal. This is an area where you should spend a little more money for premium "controlled expansion," heavy for caliber, bullets designed for use on large, tough animals.

The Nosler Partition and the Swift A-Frame are just a few examples of outstanding bullets for use on African game. Nowadays, almost every ammunition manufacturer has a line of bullets suitable for use on large African game. To be honest, there is not a dramatic difference in performance among the various brands of controlled expansion ammunition. When selecting your bullets, choose the loads that are the most accurate in your rifle and what you feel most confident using and you'll do just fine.

Marksmanship

This is another area that hunters often overlook. Far too many hunters go to Africa with a brand-new rifle they have never shot, much less sighted in. You cannot be too prepared as far as marksmanship goes. After all, you are travelling halfway around the world for the opportunity to make a good shot on a magnificent animal.

While African animals are by no means bullet proof, a poorly placed shot can make for a very long follow-up and potentially a lost animal. You owe it to yourself and to the animal to make each shot count. Once your rifle is properly zeroed, you should not do any shooting from a bench rest. Very little of your shooting in Africa will be from a steady rest, and you will experience the greatest amount of felt recoil while shooting from the bench.

Find out from your outfitter what the expected ranges are that you will be shooting at, and practice at those ranges shooting off-hand and with a modified rest, such as shooting sticks, kneeling or using a tree for support. You should also practice rapid follow-up shots. Fire your first shot at one target at a given range; then, as quickly as possible, work the action on your rifle and fire a second shot at a different target at a different range. When you can keep all of your shots (including follow-up shots) inside a 6-inch circle at the expected shooting ranges, you are ready.

While this is by no means an all-inclusive list of what you need to do to lay the groundwork for your African safari, I tried to cover some of what I consider to be the most-important and most-overlooked aspects of preparation. For those of you who have been on an African safari, what are some other areas of preparation that you recommend prospective hunters focus on?

John McAdams was born and raised in Texas where he started hunting at an early age with his father and grandfather. John has hunted big game all over the United States as well as in Namibia and Zimbabwe, and he runs his own website, The Big Game Hunting Blog. He is currently serving in the United States Army and has served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan