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The .35 Whelen in Zimbabwe -Al Borchardt

I used CCI large rifle primers and new Remington cases. These configurations proved to be an excellent choice. My reasoning was that a 250 grain bullet at moderate velocity was the right one to use in the heavy brush which is so prevalent in the Lowveld of Zimbabwe.

On July 10, 1995, we departed arriving Harare to be met by our two PHs from Hunters Safari, Phillip Reed and Mike Crawford. I was to hunt with Phillip, my partner with Mike. We drove south about 110km to Igava Farm, which is a 10 000 acre spread. We spent the afternoon looking the area over and getting acquainted. We saw steenbuck, duiker, reedbuck and many doves, which I like to hunt in the Arizona Desert. The next morning after a quick breakfast, we checked our rifles and the first hunting day was on.

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We saw plenty of game, including several steenbuck, but Phillip wanted me to hold out for a real good trophy. We returned to the farm by midday for lunch. But just as we pulled into the farmyard, Troy returned as well, telling us that he had seen a very nice steenbuck not too far from the farmhouse in an open field. As seems peculiar to this little buck, when we approached, he lay down, facing us at about 80 yards. The shot was good. He got up but collapsed after a short spurt of about 10 yards. The 250 grain Speer bullet had penetrated the entire animal. The bullet was not recovered. Even though the steenbuck is a very small animal, I thought the bullet performance was impressive. The safari was off to a good start. After my comments regarding the daintiness of this little animal, Phillip remarked that I need not be too sad, since the little buck must be as old as I in steenbuck years. The ice was broken!

The next day we hunted reedbuck. After passing up a few animals which Phillip thought were non-trophy, we spotted a good specimen about 120 yards away in a light bush and grass area. I missed with my first shot as the reedbuck ran sideways. I creased his back with the second shot. He stopped and stood behind a bush facing us. The last shot went into his chest after penetrating about two feet of the bush in front of him. I was glad to have selected a heavy bullet. I had another wonderful trophy, also an old animal indicated by very worn down teeth.

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Phillip and I departed Igava that same afternoon for the Lowveld to hunt leopard. Baits had to be obtained. For that I left most of the shooting to Phillip and his young helper using my .35 Whelen. Of the eight non-trophy impala shot, six dropped instantly and two moved a small distance, maybe twenty yards. All 250 grain Speer bullets penetrated completely, leaving a large wound channel; none were recovered. The shooting range was between 80 and 100 yards.

The leopard camp was very attractive. I had my own tent and private area. We settled into a routine of checking baits and hunting for bushbuck and duiker. We hunted on foot only.

One afternoon Phillip spotted a nice duiker about 50 yards away in heavy bush, offering a broadside shot. It was an instant kill. I realize it is a small animal, but a beautiful trophy. Nontheless one may say that I was over gunned, but the objective is to kill humanely; and therefore use an appropriate rifle and calibre which one can shoot satisfactorily.

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Over a period of several days, seven baits were taken by five different leopard - as far as we could tell. We sat up many afternoons and evenings, but no luck. After eight days of trying, a big male leopard came. It was on July 18. We let him feed for a few minutes, which was a time of almost unbearable excitement and tension. Phillip touched my arm twice: this was it! After the shot the leopard moved about 15 yards up a small embankment into heavy bush and high grass. We found him dead. The bullet went through his left shoulder, destroying everything in between and exiting on the far side: good bullet performance. A feeling, hard to describe, took over. It was a happy but also sad moment. There lay that magnificent cat, a big male, weighing in at 160 lb later on a scale. Needless to say it took me a long time to fall asleep that night.

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African Hunter Vol.5 No.1 February 1999
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