07 June 2013I was strolling the hall at the 2013 Dallas Safari Club “Journeys” Convention essentially minding my own business and visiting with old friends, checking in with the guys at Nature Blinds. It was still a couple of hours before my old friend Jim Zumbo and I were to appear on the Ruger Stage to tell hunting stories. Suddenly I was pulled aside by another old friend and hunting partner, Tim Fallon. Tim and his family own the FTW Ranch, a hunting ranch where they teach Sportsman All Weather, All Terrain Marksmanship (www.ftwoutfitters.com), a truly fabulous and extensive course that teaches attendees how to shoot both ranges near and far, and how to learn your personal limits when it comes to long range shooting. One of the things I truly appreciate about Tim and his instructors is among many things they cover a lot of topics, including the basics of firearms and shooting, ammo and scopes, both in the class room and on the range. I appreciate the fact too, they stress even though they teach their “students” how to shoot extremely long range, long range shooting should be done as a last resort, only if there is no way to decrease the range. This falls right in place with my personal feelings that even though I know how to shoot at ranges out to 1,000 yards, I choose not to shoot those long ranges unless there is no way to get closer. Getting close to the game you’re after is to me, true hunting. Shooting at extremely long range is purely shooting and has very little to do with real hunting, my opinion! All that said, I think it’s important a serious hunter learn the capabilities of his or her firearm and his or her capabilities with that firearm and how to shoot long range when it is required. On the FTW they also do a Safari course which deals with big bore guns and simulates hunting dangerous game. More about that some other time. Tim Fallon grabbed me, “You ever hunted western savannah buffalo and roan antelope before?” asked my friend knowing the answer was “no”. I shook my head in a negative manner and thought, “Oh, my goodness this is gonna cost me time and money!” I turned to walk away before I committed to something I wasn’t sure of doing. “Come on back here, want you to meet someone,” said Tim a bit louder. I knew if I turned around, I’d commit to whatever hunt Fallon wanted to do. He’d done it before, convinced me to go on other hunts, including a “most interesting hunt” to Kyrgyzstan the previous September. “Want you to meet Jose Chelet. He run Safari Chelet in Benin. Think you and I need to hunt with him. He’s got some fabulous roan antelope, as well western savannah buffalo and several other antelope species that pretty well can only be taken in the Benin area. I know you want to hunt roan, and I know you also would probably would like a western savannah buffalo.....” I introduced myself to “Pepe” Chelet who went on to explain his hunting operation and some of the hunters who had previously hunted with him. Two names caught my attention, Bruce Keller and Mark Hampton. I’d know both for a very long time and had hunted with both. I knew them to be hard hunters, Bruce being a Weatherby Award winner, and Mark, the world’s pre-eminent handgun hunter. We talked about numerous things involving the hunt. I left the booth undecided, but by the time DSC’s “Journeys” was about to close its doors I had committed and we had scheduled our hunt, leaving Texas on April 2 and hopefully returning on the 16th. Thankfully we committed when we did, because going to Benin requires more than a little bit of paperwork, as well as various vaccinations and other preparation. With the premier season of “DSC’s Trailing the Hunter’s Moon” completed. I decided to make the Benin hunt the first couple of shows for my television series for the 2014 season on Sportsman Channel. On my way from Dallas in route to Sonora, Mexico for a desert mule deer hunt with Sonora Dark Horn Adventures I called Blake Barnett my show’s producer to tell him our April plans and asked him to accompany Tim and me as the cameraman, field producer. He agreed to accompany us. Blake’s company BWB Hunt Productions produces my show. The time between DSC and the hunt gave us an opportunity to decide exactly what rifles Tim and I would take. At SHOT Show we made our decision, although there never really was a question. I would take a Ruger Model 77 Hawkeye Guide Gun in .375 Ruger and Tim would take a Ruger Model 77 Hawkeye African in the same caliber, both with Ruger’s new muzzle brake system. We decided also to top both guns with Zeiss HD5 3-15 X with external adjustment turrets scopes. This particular combo would give us the opportunity to shoot close range if need be at buffalo, but also a bit longer range should we see a monstrous roan at longer range without any way to get any closer. Once the guns arrived we quickly mounted the Zeiss scopes and headed to the range with Hornady 300-grain DGX as well as DGS and 250 grain GMX ammo. I had also procured some Hornady 250 grain GMX bullets to do some special loads, loaded a bit slower than the current Hornady 250 grain GMX commercial loads. My .375 Ruger Guide Gun shot nicely accurate with the 300 grain DGX and DGS, putting 5 shots within about 1 1/4-inch group at 100 yards. With the 250-grain GMX Hornady factory loads I got about the same accuracy. With the slightly lower velocity 250-grain GMX my Guide Gun put three shots nearly in the same hole at 100 yards. Utilizing the data Tim had on my 250-grain GMX custom handloads he developed a range card for my 20-inch barrel Guide Gun. I shot several near one hole 3-shot groups at 100 yards. Then utilizing my range card for a shot at 500 yards I cranked the scope up 11.75 minutes as my card suggested, found the 500 yard 12 inch gong (confirmed with my Zeiss Victory RF bino), held on the right edge to compensate for a very slight cross wind from the right, took a deep breath, let it all out and gently tugged the trigger. Even though I saw the bullet hit the gong, thanks to the reduced recoil caused by the Ruger’s muzzle brake, I heard Tim, who was watching through our Zeiss spotting scope say, “One inch to the right of center!” I bolted in another round held the same hold and shot a second time. Again I saw the bullet strike the 500 yard gong! I bolted in a third round, pulled the trigger and saw the gong wobble one more time. “Three shots within about 5 inches at 500 yards. And based on our calculations still producing a slight bit more energy at 500 yards than the .308 Win has at the muzzle. Nice having that 15 power for long shots, isn’t it!” I could not agree more! Then it was Tim’s time with his .375 Ruger African with muzzle brake. Shooting from a prone position, after having sighted in at 100 yards, he also shot at 500 yards and with the same “dial up” he put five shots into the 12 inch gong at 500 yards. “Looks like we made wise choices when it comes to rifles, calibers, scopes, and ammunition! I know you, like me, have been looking for a gun/caliber/scope combination that could be used hunting tight cover for dangerous game, but also be used a long way out in case we finally got a chance at a legitimate 60-inch kudu.” Said I as we packed up our gear and started toward the Jeep for the ride back to the FTW headquarters. “No doubt! A few years ago I was in Africa hunting buffalo when we spotted an absolute monstrous sable. He was about 500 yards away and I was carrying one of my larger caliber guns. One of the gun bearers had my .300 Win Mag and he was a little way behind us. By the time I made a gun switch the big sable was gone. Had I been carrying this .375 Ruger with my 3-15x Zeiss scope and knowing what I do now about the ballistics and accuracy of my rifle, scope, ammo combination that big sable would be hanging in the lodge right now!” Tim, Blake Barnett and I left for Benin on April 2nd. I’ll let you know how our hunt went in a future “campfire” visit! In the mean time don’t forget to watch my new TV show, “DSC’s Trailing the Hunter’s Moon” on Sportsman Channel, which debuts the first week of July and in the central time zone will air at 2:00 pm on Mondays, 5:30 pm on Fridays and 8:30 am on Saturdays. If you can watch when it airs be certain to set your DVR! Thanks!